Purpose of a Permit to Work System and How It Contributes to Workplace Safety

    You might have heard about the term ‘permit to work’ which is often applied in most high-risk industries. One of the most common examples is the construction industry. Today, we will be discussing the purpose of a permit to work and how it contributes to the safety of every workplace.

    This simply refers to a documented system that is done formally and used for risky activities. It is issued by the supervisor or the manager. Let us learn more about the permit to work system in the following information below.

    What is a Permit to Work System?

    Known as the standard operational procedure in organizations, PTW or Permit to Work System is utilized for issuance of documented permissions allowing them to perform jobs or tasks that are deemed non-routine or hazardous. PTW comprises instructions regarding the job description including the place and time with detailed information regarding the safety procedures one should follow.

    These permits allow certain personnel to conduct potentially risky works at a given period. The management should be able to submit the detailed procedures in this permit and followed by referenced documentation.

    Different Types of Work Permits

    A work permit differs based on the nature of the job as well as the level of hazard involved. There are 7 types and these are the following:

    1. Height Work: This type of permit authorizes certain personnel to accomplish their jobs on elevated areas which are at least 2 meters from the ground. It can be scaffolds, MEWP (Mobile Elevated Work Platforms), ladders, etc.
    2. Electrical Isolation Permit: This permit gives authorization to institutions to let their personnel to work in areas that have higher voltage and are exposed to uncontrolled electrical dispersion. This electrical isolation work is done to check lock-out systems as well as observe site maintenance by experts such as electrical engineers.
    3. Cold Work Permit: This allows personnel to operate all kinds of machinery that do not produce or generate heat during the manufacturing process. Some of its examples are those that are mechanically induced shearing, bending, drawing, and squeezing.
    4. Chemical Work Permit: This type of work permit authorizes an institution to work with hazardous chemical substances. It also permits personnel to work in chemically-induced areas which may be corrosive or toxic by nature. These jobs are usually done by chemical engineers that generally work in chemical laboratories and plants.
    5. Hot Work Permit: It is the permit authorizing companies or individuals who perform their jobs in conditions producing flames, sparks or other sources of ignition. Some of its examples include heat-inducing operations including flammable gases, welding and soldering.
    6. Excavation Permit: An excavation work permit is for personnel to be able to dig or mine land for the purpose of extracting resources, unearthing hidden artifacts or building infrastructure. There are many possible risks involved during the actual excavation process such as being trapped, airborne contaminants, falling and explosions.
    7. Confined Space Permit: This permit is designated to allow personnel to work on tasks in very narrow spaces. These spaces are prone to danger like a toxic atmosphere, asphyxiation, or substances that can engulf. A confined space may be sewage, vent, tank, shaft, and more.

    Purposes of Permit to Work Systems

    A work permit is important in every company that is involved in the risky nature of work or work environment. The most basic purpose of a permit to work system is to ensure that all checks are done and restrictions are made on specific tasks rather than just letting them carry out the task whenever they want.

    Furthermore, there are other essential reasons why PTWs must be obtained before proceeding to their projects in potentially dangerous areas.

    Assurance of Work Plans

    A permit to work system involves details of precautions right from the start until the final finish of the project. It comes with supervisory and emergency requirements. This way, every work aspect is well-planned.

    Procedure Supporting Risk Assessments

    The work permits are designed to prevent all high-risk jobs from commencing before certain risk assessments and method statements are carried out. In most cases, where these risks are very high, several documents must be provided to carry out the necessary assessment, preparation and planning.

    Communication of Safety and Health Information

    The PTW System reminds the operators of the checks and procedures in place. It informs them and all people in the workplace to be aware of the hazards and how to take action before and during work and if some unexpected circumstances occur. A permit provides a clear and easy-to-understand set of instructions throughout the work. At the same time, it also sets whether or not some aspects are permitted.

    A Written Record

    Since these permits are completed as tasks are carried out, they become the written record of the work that will be carried out, by whom, and things that have been done. A permit must be signed off by an institution’s operative and its supervisor. Thus, it confirms evidence of checks and work that have been accomplished.

    Procedure to Maintain the Safety of the Area Upon Work Completion

    One of the benefits of a permit to work system is that it provides a procedure to assure that the area is in a safe state even after work completion. Checks guarantee that every work environment will be safe upon completion. Examples of these checks are electrical checks or one-hour fire checks designed for heat prone work.

    Essential Controls are Kept in Place

    These permits are used to formalize the essential controls, clearly set out supervision and name all operators involved. Most of the time, a permit is displayed at a work area to inform those that are not involved in such work of temporary restrictions or exclusions.


    A permit to work will be effective if it has covered all the essential points of the legal requirements. At the same time, it should be able to set out all procedures and control possible risks sufficiently. The permit should be issued by competent and authorized personnel.  


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