Effectiveness of Permit to Work Systems Narrative

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Heather Amm

Abstract: The main purpose of this paper is to review the effectiveness of Permit to Work (PTW) systems within current academic literature and build an understanding of what recommendations can be implemented to establish a PTW system that conclusively manages the risk and hazards that people undertaking high risk and non-routine work are exposed to. PTW is a control system that is used to assess and manage the hazards associated mostly with high risk work, such as work at height, hot work, electrical work or confined spaces as well as non-routine work. Failure of the PTW system can have catastrophic consequences as seen in the Piper Alpha oil platform explosion where 167 people were killed, the Longford Gas release and explosion where two people were killed and the Phillips Chemical Company fire at Pasadena where there were 23 fatalities. For this article the search terms ‘Permit to Work’, ‘Permit-to-Work’, ‘Hot Work Permits’ were used to retrieve journal articles on PTW systems from the University of Newcastle’s library database. Two further criteria were applied - firstly, the article must be published after 1990 allowing for the last 30 years of major incidents to be captured, and secondly, any article that was attempting to sell a particular product was excluded as these articles were not reviewing PTW systems or major incidents causes but rather the effectiveness of their own products.In every system there are strengths and weaknesses. In reviewing the literature on PTW systems, five key weaknesses were identified: inadequate training, deficiencies of paper based PTW systems, failure of effective handover at shift change, weak leadership commitment to the PTW system and inadequate auditing scheduling and techniques. Effective PTW systems are not an unachievable goal for business. It will be demonstrated through this review, a PTW system that considers the five key deficiencies discussed and overcomes these, can be an effective PTW system. A business with leadership that drives a culture of safety as number one, can implement and gain adherence to an effective PTW system. Regular and comprehensive auditing of the PTW system including the training of personnel who use the system will enlighten the business on where there is room for improvement. A PTW system must have a comprehensive handover procedure between shifts. If there is capacity to implement an electronic PTW system then this is preferable to a paper based system as long as it is customisable and covers all the requirements of a what is considered as a robust PTW system including: the authorised personnel, limitations of each permit, hazards and precautions identified through risk assessment, the permit’s validity time frame, handover and closure. In this review, it will be demonstrated that a PTW system that considers the five key deficiencies and overcomes these can be an effective PTW system.

Keywords: Permit To Work, Work Permits, Permit-To-Work, Safe Systems Of Work

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1001196

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