Permit to Work systems are widely used throughout the petroleum industry. The permit is essentially a document which describes the work to be done and the precautions to be taken in doing it, and which sets out all the necessary safety procedures and equipment.
For operations in hazardous and dangerous areas, permits should normally be used for tasks such as:
- Hot Work.
- Work with a spark potential.
- Work on electrical equipment.
- Diving operations.
- Heavy lifts.
- Enclosed space entry.
- Cold work
- Working aloft
- Working on pressurized vessel
- Working over side
- Other hazardous tasks
The permit should specify clearly the particular item of equipment or area involved, the extent of work permitted, the conditions to be met and the precautions to be taken and the time and duration of validity. The latter should not normally exceed a working day. At least two copies of the permit should be made, one for the issuer and one for the person at the work site.
The layout of the permit should include a check-list to provide both the issuer and the user with a methodical procedure to check that it is safe for work to begin and to stipulate all the necessary conditions. If any of the conditions cannot be met, the permit should not be issued until remedial measures have been taken.
It is advisable to have distinctive Permit to Work systems for different hazards. The number of permits required will vary with the complexity of the planned activity. Care must be taken not to issue a permit for subsequent work that negates the safety conditions of an earlier permit. For example, a permit should not be issued to break a flange adjacent to an area where a Hot Work permit is in force.
Before issuing a permit, the Terminal Representative must be satisfied that the conditions at the site, or of the equipment to be worked on, are safe for the work to be performed, taking due account of the presence of any ships that will be alongside while the work is being carried out.
While companies will develop their own procedures for managing all aspects of operations and tasks undertaken, many operators choose to incorporate a Permit to Work system into their SMS in order to manage hazardous tasks.
A Permit to Work system is a formal written system that is used to control certain types of work. It delivers a risk based approach to safety management and requires personnel to undertake and record risk assessments in the development of a safe system of work.
Guidance for establishing a Permit to Work system is contained in a number of publications issued by industry organizations and various international safety bodies.
Copies of all permits should be posted as may be necessary. Copies should also be retained by the person in charge of the operation. If any repairs are to be carried out concurrent with cargo handling operations, specific permission should be granted by the terminal operators. Whenever practicable, a drill should be held prior to commencing repair work. Subsequent drills should be arranged when the repairs are to be carried out over an extended period. A dedicated Safety Officer should be appointed by the Master to co-ordinate the permit and certification processes associated with the repair period.