What is Permit-to-Work (PTW) and why it’s important

What is Permit-to-Work

Permit-to-Work (PTW) is a document management process that authorizes and controls high-risk activities within a workplace. It ensures that proper safety measures are in place before work begins, reducing the risk of accidents, injuries, and incidents. 

In a permit-to-work process, workers play a crucial role in ensuring that high-risk activities are carried out safely and in compliance. The typical process in the eyes of workers usually involves: 

  1. Requesting the Permit – If a worker is assigned to perform a task that requires a permit-to-work, they must start the permit request process by filling out a permit application form or notifying their supervisor. 
  1. Risk Assessment: Workers may be required to participate in the risk assessment process for the task. This involves identifying potential hazards and assessing risks. 
  1. Following Safety Procedures and Permit Conditions: Workers must follow the safety protocols outlined in the permit-to-work. This includes following specific instructions for using safety equipment, implementing control measures, and respecting designed work zones and time limits 
  1. Reporting Hazards or Incidents: Workers must report any hazards, near misses, or incidents that occur during the permitted work. This helps ensure that corrective actions can be taken to prevent accidents and injuries. 

By actively participating in the permit-to-work process and following to safety procedures, workers contribute to the overall safety and success of high-risk activities in the workplace. 

Why Permit-to-Work Management is important 

Perhaps the most vital goal for permit-to-work management is improving the safety culture in the organizations. Beyond the safety and well-being of workers, there are other compelling benefits from (digital) permit-to-work management

Improves safety 

Authorizing permits for high-risk tasks raises the workers’ and contractors’ risk awareness. Workers are better prepared to complete the job safely and react correct way in case of emergency.   

“A fire on a cruiser in the final stages of outfitting costs 300,000 euros per minute” 

Harri Koivisto, Fire Manager at Meyer

Streamlines operational work 

For Safety and Site Managers, the permit process enables control access, meaning unlocking a better overview of the work site which drives to more efficient management of workers and work sites. Permits help to standardize the procedures and make everybody follow the agreed rules.   

Before digitalizing the permit process workers were waiting 30-60 minutes on a line before getting to work. Now it takes approximately a minute to issue and process the permit via mobile

Harri Koivisto, Fire Manager at Meyer

Ensures compliance 

Permit-to-work management ensures compliance with safety regulations through standardized procedures, thorough risk assessments, and documentation of all relevant information. Only qualified individuals are authorized to work under permits, with supervision and oversight to ensure adherence to safety requirements. Ensuring compliance minimizes the risk of getting fined and penalized for dangerous work.

Provides insights 

Permit-to-work systems serve as valuable tools for gathering insights and data related to safety performance, risk management, and compliance within the workplace. This data enables organizations to make informed decisions, mitigate risks, and continually improve safety practices. 

“The number of safety observations was tripled, and risks were cut in half”  

Vesa Sell, Head of Safety at Linnanmäki Amusement Park

Types of work permits 

PTW contains a wide range of types of permits tailored to high-risk activities and environments ensuring safety measures are in place to protect workers and prevent accidents. Here are common work permit types: 

  • Hot Work Permit: The most common permit type and regulated in most countries. Authorizes activities involving open flames, sparks, or high temperatures, such as welding, cutting, or soldering.
  • Confined Space Permit: Grants permission for entry into confined spaces like tanks, vessels, or underground areas, specifying safety precautions and rescue procedures. 
  • Cold Work Permit: Issued for tasks conducted in cold environments, ensuring workers are equipped with appropriate protective gear and safety measures. 
  • Electrical Work Permit: Activities involving electrical installations, repairs, or maintenance, ensuring compliance with electrical safety standards. 
  • Isolation Permit (Lockout/Tagout): Allows the isolation of energy sources to prevent accidental equipment activation during maintenance or repair work. 
  • Working at Heights Permit: Authorizes work conducted at elevated heights, such as working on scaffolding, roofs, or elevated platforms, ensuring fall protection measures are in place. 
  • Excavation Permit: Grants permission for excavation or trenching work, specifying safety measures to prevent collapses and cave-ins. 
  • Radiation Work Permit: Allows work involving sources of ionizing radiation, specifying safety measures and exposure limits. 
  • Traffic Management Permit: Permits activities involving changes to traffic flow or road access, ensuring safety during construction, maintenance, or event management. 
  • Asbestos Work Permit: Permits work involving handling or removal of asbestos-containing materials, ensuring compliance with safety regulations. 
  • Environmental Permits: Authorizes activities with potential environmental impacts, ensuring compliance with environmental regulations. 
  • Equipment Use Permit: Grants permission to use specific equipment, ensuring operators are trained and qualified. 
  • Scaffolding Permit: Authorizes the erection, use, or dismantling of scaffolding, specifying safety precautions and inspection requirements. 

How to implement a permit-to-work management system? 

Implementing a permit-to-work (PTW) system requires careful planning, communication, and training to ensure its effectiveness and integration into the existing safety management framework. Here are steps to implement a PTW system: 

1. Assessment of Current Safety Practices

Evaluate existing safety procedures, protocols, and risk management practices to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement. Identify high-risk activities or tasks that require permits to ensure proper control measures are in place to mitigate risks effectively. 

2. Development of Permit-to-Work Procedures and System

Develop standardized procedures for issuing, approving, and managing permits. Define roles and responsibilities for personnel involved in the permit process, including workers, supervisors, safety officers, and management. Map out locations and work areas with high-risk activities 

3. Testing and Pilot Implementation

Conduct pilot testing of the permit-to-work system in a controlled environment to identify any operational issues or challenges. Gather feedback from users and stakeholders to refine the system before full implementation. 

4. Communication and Engagement

Communicate the implementation and objectives of the permit-to-work system to all stakeholders, including workers, supervisors, and management. Onboard the main users and provide training material for other users such as guides for contractors on how to apply and activate permits. 

5. Continuous Improvement

Establish mechanisms for continuous monitoring, evaluation, and improvement of the permit-to-work system. Regularly review performance metrics, incident reports, and feedback from users to identify areas for enhancement and implement corrective actions. 

Digitalizing Permit-to-Work Management

A crucial part of the successful implementation of the Permit-to-Work system is to evaluate the benefits of digitalizing the process and start using permit-to-work software. With Gate Apps Permit-to-Work Software, companies can store and manage all the work permits from the factory, construction site, or shipyard in one place. Site and Security Managers get an overview of how the work is progressing and confirm everyone follows the agreed rules. Gate Apps has processed over 200,000 permits and serves a daily user base of more than 10,000 industrial workers.