Why a Better Way Is Needed for Permit to Work

August 28, 2018

This is the second of a 3-part series of posts on Permit to Work. In the I gave a definition of permit to work, explained the challenges associated with permit to work systems, and said that there is an opportunity to make permit to work a simpler, faster and more effective process. In this post I will elaborate why a better way is needed to manage safe work permits.

As a Product Manager, I identify pain points affecting organizations which create issues or prevent them from improving operational performance. With regards to permit to work, here are some of the common issues I hear:

  • There is significant non-value add-time being wasted filling in the same data in different paperwork and waiting for people.
  • Lack of consistency in process and approach across sites creates inefficiencies at the enterprise level and creates barriers to effective best practice and lessons learned sharing.
  • Tracking of a permit in real-time is a challenge, often relying on a permit board, it means it can only be viewed in a particular location which is often not up to date.
  • It’s difficult to track and manage changes made to a permit.
  • It’s practically impossible to gather data for analysis and generating insights.
  • Due to large or inefficient paper archiving, it’s difficult for some organisations to find permits in the case of an incident investigation or claim leading to increased legal costs.
  • There’s a risk of repeat incidents because it’s a struggle to update or change the permit to work process once an issue has been identified.

The pain points make it clear that a better way is needed for permit to work. What should be the “guiding principles” of this new way? By combining our skills with the innovative spirit of the Enablon client community, we were able to build a vision of the ideal solution that can lead to dramatic improvements in permit to work systems.

First, paper-based systems should be replaced by digital systems that include adaptable permit templates, and configurable workflows and rules ensuring that work practices reflect the desired documented process. Digital systems provide real-time oversight of ongoing work activity to the entire organization, while notifications and alerts can help users comply with controls in place to keep operations safe. For example, an alert can remind someone to record an atmospheric reading or conduct a fire watch at a site after hot work has been conducted.

Second, a simple-to-use, intuitive interface that can be used in the field is key. Smartphones can be leveraged to achieve this. Mobile technology can empower the workforce through a simple interface, notifications, media files and instant communication tools. It is therefore possible to implement modern permit to work systems that are both easy-to-use while also being robust.

Third, we must not lose sight of the fact that any EHS solution, whether one for permit to work or another, must create value at every level of the organization. In order to be adopted by someone, a solution needs to help that person – whether it’s a quicker way for a contractor to submit or receive information, easier overview of an activity for site managers, or an increase in the quality of insights across the enterprise. Software features need to be tested by those in the roles dealing with the inefficiencies.

In this post we saw why a better way for permit to work is needed, as well as the principles that define the ideal solution. In the next few weeks we will publish the third and final post of the series where the Enablon permit to work solution will be introduced and explained in detail.

Stay tuned!

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