A traditional permit board centralises storage and management of all paper based permits to work in force on a particular site. A paper-based board normally presents a series of wallets containing the actual permit or a copy, along with any loto tags. The board is prominently displayed and immediately alerts anyone entering that area, including contractors, to what work is being conducted, where and what the dangers are, any sanctions for test etc.
They’re convenient and relatively simple to implement – at it’s simplest you could just write permit details on a whiteboard!
Issues with Paper-based systems
However there are issues. A key disadvantage of a paper based system is that permits must be physically moved around to obtain sign off and update their status. This leads to the possibility of time delays or miscommunication which could result in a serious incident. At the very least a paper based system results in a disconnect between what happens on the worksite and the existing policies and procedures.
Depending on the location, a permit board could be a long way from the work site. Every update to the permit could result in a significant delay in critical tasks. When delays and inefficiencies are considered the actual cost of using a paper-based permit to work board is usually significantly higher than the cost of the original paper form. There’s also the risk of error inherent in paper based forms where automated entry and error checks are impossible.
Ideal features of a Permit Board
To be truly ‘fit for purpose’ a permit board should allow permits to be viewed and managed from anywhere by authorised personnel. A clear overview of the status of all permits in force should be displayed, along with an indication of any simops . All staff who need to interact with the permit should be able to do so and crucially all relevant information should be visible at all times. Multiple copies of the permit board should be accessible in as many locations as required, and on any device (mobile, tablet, screen etc.) with live updates of status as permits are created and handed back. This is the only way to ensure that all stakeholders have the most up to date information they need to work safely and effectively.
These requirements mean that a paper based permit to work board is not suited to the real-life demands of a busy workplace. An electronic permit to work board as part of a permit to work system can display all relevant information about all permits in a specified area. By increasing the visibility of permits, efficiency is increased, risk is reduced and job planning is easier.
At a time when remote working is increasingly common, it is not unusual for managers to be issuing and signing off permits for work undertaken remotely. Having an up to date view of permit data means that their focus can be on the quality of their decision making rather than moving paper around. Early in the lockdown we got a call from a client who was trying to set up a manufacturing plant remotely – paper based permits just wouldn’t have worked. We demo’d the PTW software and had him up and running in a matter of days.