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The Importance of Permits to Work

If you manage a site with potentially hazardous work, implementing a permit to work system should be a top priority. Permits to work are a critical part of a safe system of work, ensuring proper risk assessment and hazard controls are in place before work begins.

What is a Permit to Work?

A permit to work is a documented process used to control high-risk work activities. It authorises specific people to do particular tasks at a certain time, ensuring all proper precautions are taken.

Permits detail the work, risks, and required controls, and require sign-off from both management and workers. Whether paper or electronic, permits formally communicate hazards and ensure safety systems are functioning before work starts.

When Permits Are Needed

Permits are required for non-routine work that is potentially hazardous. This includes:

  • Working at height

  • Confined space entry

  • Electrical work

  • Machinery maintenance

  • Hazardous materials handling

  • Diving operations

  • Pressure testing

  • Heavy load movements

  • Hot work like welding or cutting

In short, permits are needed for any work where risks require thorough assessment and planning. They should not be used for routine tasks.

Key Features of Permits

An effective permit to work system has these essential features:

  • Identifies hazardous work needing permits.

  • Defines who can authorise permits and specify precautions.

  • Standardises information on tasks, risks, duration and controls.

  • Includes contractor work.

  • Provides handover procedures for multi-shift tasks.

  • Requires training for all involved.

  • Is monitored and audited.

Benefits of Permits

When used properly, permits to work provide many safety benefits:

  • Clarify the work, hazards, and required precautions to workers.

  • Notify site management of all hazardous work onsite.

  • Provide written proof precautions were specified by a competent person.

  • Control overlapping work tasks that may interact.

  • Provide formal task handover between shifts.

  • Improve communication at all levels.

  • Create a compliance record showing safety was checked.

Implementing an effective permit to work system is crucial for managing hazardous work activities. This system will improve planning, oversight, compliance, and communication to prevent injuries and incidents. For worksites with high-risk tasks, permits are a foundational safety element.


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