Practical Design Recommendations for a Permit to Work
Like any other form or documentation – the key role of a Permit to Work is to support clear and accurate communication between several parties. As such the HSE have set out specific advice in their HSG250 guide on the presentation and layout of procedures.
Font, language and layout
keep sentences short and simple;
clearly state who does what and when;
use colour-coding (e.g. to illustrate individual roles);
use the present tense and the active voice;
do not use text fonts smaller than 8 point;
place items on the permit in the order they are performed;
make cross-referencing easy – keep related information together;
make use of open space in the text – avoid ‘clutter’;
use UPPER CASE sparingly for emphasis;
leave enough room for descriptions (e.g. to list area involved, hazards and precautions), specifying the level of detail required;
provide actual quantitative values and limits (e.g. don’t just say ‘must not exceed a critical level’)
Tailor the Permit to Work for the task and the environment
The permit-to-work form must help communication between everyone involved. It should be designed by the company issuing the permit, taking into account individual site conditions and requirements. Separate permit forms may be required for different tasks, such as hot work and entry into confined spaces, so that sufficient emphasis can be given to the particular hazards present and the precautions required.
Although a permit should be tailored for specific types of task, there are a number of universal, essential elements which need covering for it to be fit for purpose.
Permit reference number - reference to other relevant permits or isolation certificates
Description of work to be done and its limitations
Hazard identification – including residual hazards and hazards associated with the work
Precautions necessary and actions in the event of an emergency – people who carried out precautions, eg isolating authority, should sign that precautions have been taken
Protective equipment (including PPE)
Issue – signature (issuing authority) confirming that isolations have been made and precautions taken, except where these can only be taken during the work. Date and time duration of permit.
Acceptance – signature confirming understanding of work to be done, hazards involved and precautions required. Also confirming permit information has been explained to all permit users
Extension/shift handover procedures – signatures confirming checks made that plant remains safe to be worked upon, and new performing authorities and permit users made fully aware of hazards/precautions. New expiry time given
Hand-back – signed by performing authority certifying work completed. Signed by issuing authority certifying work completed and plant ready for testing and recommissioning
Cancellation – certifying work tested and plant satisfactorily recommissioned
Note: Signatures on permit-to-work forms should be dated and timed.
Permit to Work systems are available as paper based and electronic systems. Whichever medium is being used, wherever possible, permits and hazardous activity certificates should be comprised of primary colours - blue, red, or yellow - to promote consistency across the industry. Areas on the document where information is entered should also have a light background colour to allow information to be read quickly in an emergency situation.
As you can see a lot of thought goes into designing a robust Permit to Work system which helps communication and co-operation between everyone involved in hazardous workplace activities.