Permit to work systems (PTWs) are an essential safety measure in many industries, including oil and gas, construction, and manufacturing. They help to ensure that hazardous work is carried out safely and that all necessary precautions are taken to protect workers and the environment.
However, PTWs are only effective if they are used correctly. Human factors, such as fatigue, stress, and complacency, can lead to mistakes being made when using PTWs, which can have serious consequences.
This article will discuss some of the best practices for managing human factors in PTWs.
1. Understand the human factors that can affect PTW System use
The first step to managing human factors in PTWs is to understand the different factors that can affect PTW use. Some of the most common human factors include:
- Fatigue: Fatigue can impair decision-making and judgment, and it can increase the risk of making mistakes. For example fatigue may cause a critical isolation to be identified, resulting in a dangerous situation when the permit is being completed.
- Stress: Stress can also impair decision-making and judgment, and it can lead to people taking shortcuts or failing to follow procedures.
- Complacency: Complacency can lead to people becoming careless or overconfident, which can increase the risk of accidents. There’s a balance to be struck here between making things as friction-free as possible and creating a situation where staff lose focus ( e.g. because they are copying a base permit repeatedly without due attention, potentially resulting in dangerous omissions).
- Lack of knowledge or training: If people do not have the necessary knowledge or training to use PTWs correctly, they are more likely to make mistakes.
- Poor communication: Poor communication between different stakeholders, such as permit issuers, permit holders, and workers, can lead to misunderstandings and errors.
2. Design the PTW system to minimize human error
The PTW system should be designed to minimize the risk of human error. This can be done by:
- Simplifying the system: The PTW system should be as simple and easy to use as possible. This will help to reduce the risk of people making mistakes.
- Using clear and concise language: The PTW system should use clear and concise language that is easy to understand. This will help to reduce the risk of misunderstandings.
- Using visual cues: Visual cues, such as color-coding and symbols, can be used to make the PTW system more user-friendly and to help people to identify important information quickly and easily. For example, it is useful to identify whether permits are active in a particular area – this is best achieved by use of a permit board.
- Providing adequate training: All personnel involved in the use of PTWs should be adequately trained. This training should cover all aspects of the PTW system, including how to identify and assess hazards, how to develop and implement safe work procedures, and how to use the PTW system correctly.
- Implementing a feedback loop: The PTW system should include a feedback loop so that any problems or areas for improvement can be identified and addressed promptly.
3. Manage fatigue, stress, and complacency
Organizations should take steps to manage fatigue, stress, and complacency in their workers. This can be done by:
- Providing adequate rest breaks: Workers should be given adequate rest breaks to prevent fatigue.
- Implementing stress management programs: Organizations can implement stress management programs to help workers to cope with stress and to reduce the risk of stress-related errors.
- Promoting a culture of safety: Organizations should promote a culture of safety where workers feel comfortable reporting concerns and where they are not penalized for making mistakes.
4. Improve communication
Organizations should also take steps to improve communication between different stakeholders involved in the use of PTWs. This can be done by:
- Holding regular meetings: Holding regular meetings between permit issuers, permit holders, and workers can help to improve communication and understanding.
- Using clear and concise language: All written and verbal communication related to PTWs should use clear and concise language that is easy to understand.
- Using visual aids: Visual aids, such as diagrams and flowcharts, can be used to improve communication and understanding of complex procedures.
5. Monitor and audit the PTW system
Organizations should regularly monitor and audit the PTW system to identify any areas for improvement. This can be done by:
- Reviewing PTWs: Reviewing PTWs for completeness and accuracy can help to identify any potential problems.
- Interviewing personnel: Interviewing personnel involved in the use of PTWs can help to identify any problems with the system or any areas where improvement is needed.
- Observing work activities: Observing work activities can help to identify any instances of non-compliance with the PTW system.
By following these best practices, organizations can minimize the risk of human error when using PTWs and improve the safety of their workers.
Here are some additional tips for managing human factors in PTWs:
- Use a risk-based approach: Identify the tasks and activities that pose the greatest risk and focus on managing human factors in those areas. For example, if a task is complex or requires a high level of concentration, you may need to implement additional safeguards, such as providing workers with clear and concise instructions or having a supervisor present to oversee the work.
- Tailor the PTW system to the specific needs of the job: The PTW system should be tailored to the specific needs of the job being undertaken. This may involve including additional steps or requirements for certain tasks.
- Use technology to support the PTW system: There are a number of technologies that can be used to support the PTW system, such as electronic PTW systems and mobile apps. These technologies can help to improve efficiency, reduce the risk of errors, and provide real-time visibility into the PTW process.
- Provide workers with regular feedback: Provide workers with regular feedback on their performance when using PTWs. This feedback can be used to identify any areas where workers need additional training or support.
- Create a culture of safety: Create a culture of safety where workers feel comfortable reporting concerns and where they are not penalized for making mistakes. This will help to ensure that workers are more likely to identify and address human factors risks.
Examples of human factors interventions in PTWs:
- Use checklists: Checklists can help to reduce the risk of human error by ensuring that all necessary steps are followed. The use of electronic PTW systems can mitigate this to an extent as the allow for additional questions to be included to confirm that potential human factors have been addressed.
- Use job shadowing: Job shadowing can be used to train new workers on how to use PTWs correctly and to identify any potential human factors risks.
- Use peer review: Peer review can be used to check PTWs for completeness and accuracy and to identify any potential human factors risks.
- Use time-out procedures: Time-out procedures can be used to give workers a chance to pause and reflect before carrying out a critical task.
- Use fatigue management programs: Fatigue management programs can help to reduce the risk of fatigue-related errors.
The Pisys Permit to Work system is a web-based tool which helps organisations to work more safely and effectively/