According to safety expert, Shane Lishman, any management system depends, in part, on the quality of a health and safety permit to work system.
While looking at a Permit to Work (PTW), Lishman was surprised to notice who receives a permit to work. He explains that in some industries such as petro-chemicals, the permit process is usually logical, but there are some health and safety persons issuing permits on oil rigs with no operations background.
So how do you know which work permits apply to your company?
Note that in general "a permit to work is issued by an operator who is qualified on his process unit, and in SA it is normally a Section 16(2) appointee.
The receiver of the permit could be the person who passed a quick training module test. However some companies have extensive PTW receiver training, which is often excellent"
, he explained.
Moreover, he draws attention upon the construction sites where both the permit issuer and the permit receiver have little or no training, and issuing the work permit represents nothing more than a "merely paper exercise".
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He also gives as an example situations in which people in the field say "Let us put a person through a PTW course, a quick one, and get the job done", unaware of the further risks such a bogus procedure might have.
Another danger lies in the fact that some organisations design their own signage for permit zones and this usually involves a blue circle with the standardised meaning of 'mandatory'. In his opinion, the work permits actually talk about the organisation itself:
"The PTW process starts with the maturity of the organisation.
Mature HSE organisations have a vastly different culture from those that are HSE immature. Does your employer have an HSE maturity survey process or HSE maturity index?"
As a next step, he refers to the recruitment and job placement of people with appropriate skills and experience for the job, together with the implementation of health and safety systems at the early project stages.
"Contractor selection is the next big question; price driven, experience driven, and hopefully HSE-driven. Now we re-define who issues and receives permits to work'.
Another aspect to be taken into consideration is that issuers have to be at least supervisors and be present at the worksite! You should not be confused when it comes to the appointment position of supervisor, and the role descriptor in terms of a permit to work system.
Also, keep in mind that any health and safety permit to work system has to change as the project develops and goes to different stages. And it is only logical that one permit can't be available for all as the risks and conditions changes in a construction plan, for instance.