A permit to work is a formal documented system, used to control high-risk activities. A manager or supervisor will usually issue the permit which will allow a person or people to carry out a job, subject to a strict set of safety measures and controls. A Permit to Work will be issued in addition to a risk assessment and method statement, defining the time, location, authorisations and the procedures which need to be followed. Using a Permit to Work is an essential part of a high-risk activity but it needs to support and enforce the safety planning process and other health and safety documentation.
Permits to work will usually include precautions before, during and after the work, along with emergency and supervisory requirements. The permit will prevent high-risk work commencing before a specific risk assessment, and where applicable, method statements have been carried out. Often, where the risks are high, a number of documents will need to be in place to make sure that all the necessary planning, assessing and preparation has been carried out.
It's important to understand that a Permit to Work is not a substitute for a risk assessment, a risk assessment would still be required for the task or activity. In fact, it will often be detailed within the risk assessment that a permit to work will be needed to control the risks. A method statement may also be used, to detail the work procedure that will be carried out. The permit to work is a way of ensuring that the supporting risk assessments and method statements are put into action.
It is an additional document that tightly controls when the work will be carried out, the people that will be involved, the permissions they have, and checks that need to be made. For example, a method statement might detail that an electrical circuit needs to be isolated before work can begin. The permit to work will be completed to record when the circuit was isolated, who by, and at what time at the point the work is actually carried out. It is always signed off, by both the supervisor and the operative, so it is evidence of the work and checks carried out. In conclusion, a permit to work is more of a written record of what is being done, and what has been done, rather than when compared to a risk assessment or method statement that details what will be done.