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A key element of a strong risk management process is a centralized, electronic Control of Work system, and a solid Control of Work program can’t really “control” the work and ensure the safety of employees if it lacks an organized and efficient Permit to Work system.  

A Permit to Work system houses all the information on the types of work to be completed in a facility, when and where it will be completed, and by whom. It also ensures that only people who are permitted—as in, have an official permit that states that that human has the training and qualifications to complete that type of work successfully and safely—are working on that job.  This is an especially important consideration when it comes to contractor management, because of the sheer number of different contractors entering and exiting workplaces today. It’s more important than ever to verify that contractors have the appropriate training and other qualifications before they ever set foot on your site, in order to reduce the potential for occupational injuries and illnesses to themselves as well as your employees.

Sometimes, as in the case of permit to enter confined spaces as defined by OSHA in the US, use of permits is not just a good management practice, but also a regulatory requirement. In such cases, having an efficient Permit to Work system can be important for demonstrating compliance and avoiding potential violations and associated fines and penalties.

There are different permits for different types of work, but five of the most commonly used permits are: 

  • General work permit 
  • Hot work permit (e.g., for welding, soldering, brazing, and torch cutting)
  • Control of hazardous energy/lockout tagout (LOTO) permit
  • Working at height permit 
  • Confined space work permit (aka “permit to enter confined space”)

For a long time, facility managers have kept paper records of all the necessary permits on the premises, and many are still relying on that manual system to keep their work moving along smoothly. While it’s a familiar, seemingly simple way to manage permits, there are some complications with a paper-based system that could be easily avoided.  

Paper Permit to Work Systems Leave Room for Error

  • Imagine if you needed to find that one paper from some time in December of last year to verify that one contractor who worked on that one project for an audit. Are you going to have to look through all the papers from December last year?  
  • What if by regular human error, a permit gets filled out incorrectly, or goes missing? Is that information lost forever, or do you need to do more digging to find another source for the information you need? And, how much time would that take?  

Paper Permit to Work Systems Are Inefficient, Wasting Time & Money 

  • Not only does physically finding a permit take longer in a paper-based system, it takes more time to read through and find the information you need. You can’t “Search & Find” paper documents. You have to look through each paper on your own—which, even if you have all your permits organized and easy to locate, still takes more time than searching for keywords and immediately finding where that info is on a page.  
  • With the amount of paper required for each permit, for each contractor for each job, you’ll need a lot of space just to hold them all. Plain and simple, do you want to spend extra money on real estate just to house paper? 

Paper Permit to Work Systems are Outdated & Unsustainable 

  • With the Cloud floating around us, holding centuries’ worth of information while taking up no physical space, there’s no reason not to take advantage of it. All the information you need to verify anyone working on any project can literally be at your fingertips.  
  • Instead of staying in an office, sifting through stacks of paper permits and skimming for specifics, you can interact directly with your employees as they’re working, verifying information easily and quickly on a tablet. Plus, interacting with your employees and having their engagement in the workplace’s safety program makes it stronger.  
  • Having a paper permit system not only shows that your business is behind the times—it directly relates to more trees being cut down. And you’re better than that.  

An electronic Permit to Work system ensures that only qualified people are working on a task, which keeps everyone in a facility safe. This is why OSHA standards often require them; the different types of work, like hot work, working at heights or in confined spaces, have different knowledge and skill requirements that should never be overlooked. If the parties involved in the Donaldson Enterprises Incorporated (DEI) disaster had a solid Permit to Work system, multiple people could have avoided their peril and kept their lives.  

It really does add up to all that. Like many things in the world of EHS, there are multiple pieces and layers that work together to add up to a higher level of safety. A best-in-class electronic Permit to Work system is the key to take your safety performance to the next level.  

Are You Ready to See the Benefits of a Permit to Work System for Yourself? 

Take a look at what we have to offer. The electronic Permit to Work system inside VelocityEHS Control of Work makes it easy to confirm that work requiring special permits is completed in a safe and compliant manner, and that no unqualified contractors are working on site. Our cloud solution gives you the tools to protect your employees and reduce risk, while increasing visibility of all permitted work being conducted on-site for stakeholders. It includes permit-to-work, contractor management, visitor management, and additional tools for ensuring onsite visitors have been properly vetted, trained, and approved. Safe, productive, and efficient onsite work begins with the proper oversight and authorization of every person that comes through your gate.