Some good advice when moving from paper to digital permits to work

bigstock-Update-And-Upgrade-Software-Fl-335071024So you’re thinking going digital for permits to work? You’re not alone, lots of companies are making the switch because there are definite benefits in terms of transparency, efficiency and accessibility.  That said, there will be some challenges in moving from a familiar, established paper-based Permit to Work process to a software platform. These are the questions Health and Safety Managers typically raise with SG World when thinking about making the move.

Tackling the “if it ain’t broken” mentality

Paper based permit to work systems are well established and do the job. We should know – we have a whole range of paper permit to work products. Workers are used to these systems and it’s a natural response to push back against change.  Like any change management project, the key is communication, buy in and planning. Focus on the pain points experienced in using a paper system and how a software solution can make the user’s life easier eg: less admin and being able to quickly find and share specific information on a job and the supporting permit to work.

The costs are eye-watering

This can be true, an enterprise level permit to work software licence can cost £20K upwards. However, there are good all-round platforms out there which may not have every conceivable bell or whistle but cover all the core requirements of a solid permit to work process. For example, SG World’s 5D Contractor management platform will cost less than £5K for an SME and also includes modules on contractor pre-checks, onboarding and site check-in in one integrated platform.  

Managing the risk

Progress and change will always introduce an element of risk but a Health & Safety  professional will be used to working in ways that eliminate or mitigate likely issues.  Look for a software platform that is inherently “easy to drive”, incorporating step by step workflows and intuitive dashboards. Consider a digital permit to work system which lets the user build their own EPermit that reflects the layout and content in their existing paper permits. Does the software integrate with an email system, mobile apps or contractor database? All of these features can help introducing a new electronic system.

Digital doesn’t mean throwing the baby out with the bath water

Despite the advantages of digital permits, paper copies will still be appropriate in some situations. On some sites there may be security in place which means workers haven’t got access a phone and web browser. For some jobs it makes sense for a physical copy of permit to work to be displayed at the work location.  

Copies of a permit-to-work should be clearly displayed:
■ at the work site, or in a recognised location near to the work site. (If this is not practicable, eg when a job is carried out in a number of locations, then the permit should be kept on the performing authority); and
■ in the central or main control or permit co-ordination room, with additional copies at any local control rooms;
■ In addition, a copy of the permit should be kept with the issuing authority, or with the area authority if that person is not located at the worksite or control room.
HSE 250 section 18

For this reason, when choosing your digital PTW solution you should check that it will support printable exports.  


Electronic and digital signatures

Another concern we occasionally encounter, is the need for capturing physical signatures on Permit to Work forms. After all, a physical signature carries a lot of weight in reading, understanding and agreeing to the conditions of the permit.  Yes, you could print off the relevant documentation within the software but electronic signature capture makes it even easier.  Electronic signature capture is simply the ability to physically sign an electronic form using a touchscreen or tablet.

Digital signatures are far arguably more secure than paper ones, thanks to the ability to track who, when and where signed the document. SG World’s 5D contractor software also includes a pin code entry at key approval stages.

The switch from a paper to a digital permit to work process can be daunting but it’s got many benefits.  With a well-thought out introduction plan you can quickly realise time savings, better traceability and analytics, all of which contribute to proactive risk management and a safer workplace.

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