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Reliance on a poor Permit To Work system can lead to serious injury. Contact us and let us help you keep your workers safe.
We can assist you to audit, review, improve, or write your Permit to Work (PTW) System.
A Permit to Work is a formal system of controls, using documentation and supervision, that is intended to safeguard the health and safety of workers (and others) involved in particularly hazardous activities. The main purpose of a permit-to-work system is to ensure that proper and specific consideration is given to all the risks of a particular work activity and that all of the risks are assessed and controlled before work starts.
The Permit to Work System may be also be used to control similar activities being carried out by employees rather than by contractors.
A robust Permit to Work System is an important safety management feature for many companies. While this can be clear and obvious with respect to engineering operations (such as in the chemical industry or oil industry), there are many other, less apparent instances, where a suitable Permit to Work System can be effective.
Organisations, including those involved with the management of premises, are increasingly relying on contractors for day-to-day activities (such as security, cleaning and catering) as well as for the provision of more specialist assistance (equipment and machinery servicing, window cleaning, etc.). With this use of contractors comes a requirement to manage the use of contractors in a safe and professional manner. In certain instances, a part of that control of contractors may involve the use of a Permit to Work System.
The permit to work system does not replace the need for suitable and sufficient risk assessments or for method statements from contractors but is intended to work in conjunction with these documents.
The types of work that may be subject to a Permit to Work System include:
This case study looks at the fine for an oil company as a result of poor control of contractors, poor control of the permit the work system, and failures in the assessment of risks.
When contractors working for ESL Fuels Ltd cut into a sealed pipe using a grinder, there was an explosion. The pipe in question was attached to a tank and part of a waste oil recovery process at ESL fuels Ltd’s North Blend Tank Farm. Flammable gases within the pipe ignited, resulting in an explosion within the tank and the tank lid and vent pipe being partially detached and projected over a raised walkway.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) discovered that the company was having difficulty with the waste oil recovery process, which was foaming out of the vessel and filling its bund. The company’s tests were inadequate and failed to identify the cause of the problem, which was generating flammable carbon monoxide gas. A decision was taken to connect the vessel by pipework to an emergency relief dump tank to prevent a potential catastrophic overpressure in the tank but the safety implications of this modification and its design were not risk assessed. The HSE also found systemic failings with the company’s management of contractors and an inadequate Permit to Work system.
ESL Fuels Ltd appeared at Liverpool Crown Court and pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and has been fined £100,000, with costs of £17,000.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Matthew Lea said, "Even though nobody was injured this incident could have been prevented if the problems with the process and the subsequent design modification had been properly investigated, risk assessed and dealt with, and if the work of the contractors had been adequately controlled. HSE has brought this prosecution because failures took place that could have resulted in death or serious injury and we believe every person should be healthy and safe at work."
If any of the following seems daunting or you would like advice, call us on 01509 550023 to seek assistance.
Authorised Person and Responsible Person
The organisation should appoint at least one Authorised Person to control and issue the Permit to Work documentation.
The Authorised Person:
This Responsible Person should either be the person in charge of the activity to be carried out or should be the person who is actually going to do the work. The permit must be issued to a named person and not to a position or group. This is essential to pinpoint the responsibility of the control.
The important elements of a permit to work system
Different activities and different circumstances will require different elements to be incorporated into the permit to work, but there are several important elements that should be a part of most permit-to-work systems. These include:
Typical information that should be recorded on the Permit to Work paperwork
There is no definitive correct format for a permit to work. The permit, however, should define: