Safetip #98: Use Different Types of Safe Work Permits

Safety Tip and Best Practice
October 04, 2017

This week’s Safetip is about using different types of safe work permits, and determining the type by the nature of the work to be performed and the hazards.

Safe Work Permits Communicate Critical Information

A safe work permit (also known as a “permit to work”) is a document that includes a description of the work to be performed, the hazards involved, the precautions to take, the required authorizations, and other elements. It is a written record authorizing a specific work at a specific location, and for a specific time.

It’s important to note that a safe work permit does not reduce risks of incidents by itself. Rather, it specifies the hazards and the risk control measures that workers must be aware of, before they start work. A safe work permit is an effective vehicle for communicating critical safety information.

4 Types of Safe Work Permits

A Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin by the Ministry of Labour of the Canadian province of Alberta makes the following good point: The range of activities and locations makes it impossible for a single type of permit to be suitable for all situations. The type of safe work permit required will be determined by the nature of the work and the hazards involved. The Bulletin identifies the following four most commonly used types:

Hot Work Permit

Hot work permits are used when heat or sparks are generated by work such as welding, burning, cutting, drilling, and where work involves the use of pneumatic hammers and chippers, non-explosion proof electrical equipment (lights, tools, heaters), and internal combustion engines. Three types of hazardous situations need to be considered when performing hot work:

  • The presence of flammable materials in the equipment.
  • The presence of combustible materials that burn or give off flammable vapors when heated.
  • The presence of flammable gas in the atmosphere, or gas entering from an adjacent area, such as sewers that have not been properly protected.

Cold Work Permit

Cold work permits are used in hazardous maintenance work that does not involve “hot work”. Cold work permits are issued when there is no reasonable source of ignition, and when all contact with harmful substances has been eliminated or appropriate precautions taken.

Confined Space Entry Permit

Confined space entry permits are used when entering any confined space such as a tank, vessel, tower, pit or sewer. The permit should be used in conjunction with a that describes procedures to follow.

Special Permits

Some employers use special permits to cover specific hazards such as:

  • Extremely hazardous conditions
  • Radioactive materials
  • Dangerous chemicals
  • Excavations
  • Power supplies

Each type of permit provides a checklist for preparing equipment, informs workers about hazards, lists or describes the precautions to take, and describes the personal protective equipment to use. The Bulletin includes samples of safe work permits that you may find useful.

The Ultimate Guide to e-Permit to Work: The Top 3 Benefits of Moving Away from Paper​

Download this insight brief to learn how integrating three critical safety systems–permits, risk assessments, and lockout/tagout—easily helps maintain safety standards on potentially hazardous worksites.



Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader - Wolters Kluwer | Enablon