Safety “Work Permit System”

Mr. Sudarshan Singh Shekhawat
Mr. Sudarshan Singh Shekhawat, Asstt. General Manager (HRD) – Dwarikesh Sugar Ind. Ltd. Bijnor (UP)

Introduction / Preface

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the “BEHAVIOURAL SAFETY” and same was published in many reputed Safety and HR magazines. We have recd good response overhead about safety article. On demand of mass I am presenting a introductory article on Work permit system which is very much useful and practical to avoid accidental situations because based on safety assessment and cause of some accidents that occurred in the recent or past in various industries, emphasized the need for the review of existing safety practices of our unit. So we are proposing “Work Permit System” for further homework based on the actual best practices prevailing in the respective units.

Provisions of this standard if implemented objectively will help in improving safety standards at work places and thereby reducing the possibility of undesired incidents in organization. We may form a committee for study and after approval of final draft of the “Work Permit System” by committee; no change in the standard is permitted at unit level. Suggestions for amendments / changes, if any, to this standard may invite and same shall be addressed to the CENTRALIZED SAFETY COMMITTEE.

1. Purpose & Objective :

The purpose of this standard “Work Permit System” is to describe procedures and guidelines on work permit system to carry out jobs of inspection, testing, maintenance, alternation, repair, upkeepment and construction in safest possible manner. The implementation of this system will help in bring down the risks at work sites to acceptable level, thereby reducing possibility of any accident, fire, explosion, property damage and adverse effect on environment.

The objectives of the Work Permit System are to exercise control over the maintenance, repair and construction activities by assigning responsibilities, ensuring clear cut communication between interested functions & safety considerations to the job, its hazards & the precautions required. It ensures that the work is properly defined, authorised, operating personnel are aware what is going on, precautions to be taken are specified and the persons executing the job understand the nature and extent of hazards involved.

Work Permit System is an important element of safety management system and implementation of this in true spirit shall help in ensuring a safe working environment, thereby reducing possibility of injury to personnel, protect property, avoid fire, explosion & adverse affect on environment.

2. Scope :

This standard “Work Permit System” shall be applicable to all the plant premises.

Safe Work Permits are usually made out in three copies :

  • one retained by the issuer,
  • The second for the workers directly involved in the task and
  • The third for the safety department.

The workers’ copy is returned to the issuer when the work is completed. A Safe Work Permit should be issued only by a competent person, who is completely familiar with the work and the work area. The issuer should review the place where the work will be performed prior to issuing the permit.

3. Works, Require Permit :

Normally all maintenance, repair, construction work shall be carried out with a proper work permit. Jobs where work permit is required include but not limited to followings:

  • Major and minor maintenance work
  • Inspection
  • Construction
  • Alteration
  • Any hot work
  • Cleaning activities of process equipment
  • Entry into confined space
  • Excavation
  • Vehicle entry into process areas
  • Work at height
  • Handling of materials using mechanized means in operating areas
  • Erection and dismantling of scaffold
  • Radiography
  • Isolation and energisation of electric equipment/ facilities

4. Type of Work Permits, Clearances

Depending on the nature of the job, there are five types of work permit covering various works as mentioned below: We may introduce a common format or each job wise.

4.1 Cold Work Permit

This permit is required for carrying out any activity of maintenance/ cleaning / testing inside plant that non critical nature and does not produce sufficient heat to ignite a flammable or a flammable substance. The format for “Cold Work Permit” is enclosed.

4.2 Hot work / Entry In To Confined Space Permit and clearances

Hot Work Permit is required for carrying out any hazardous activity, high speed steam or during which produces sufficient heat to cause fire in a inflammable air-vapour mixture. Entry to Confined Space Permit is required for entry into any confined space.

4.3 Excavation Permit and Clearances

Excavation permit is required for carrying out any excavation inside plant. Wherever temporary closure of road / cutting of road or blockage of main roads is required in a section or unit. The necessary approval shall be obtained in proper format for “Road or Site Closure”.

4.4 “Electrical Isolation and Energisation Permit and Clearances

For all electrical isolation and energisation of electrical equipments Permit is required. To work on High Tension (HT) and Low Tension (LT) line and / or equipment is required. For Trip reset of HT and LT equipment, the clearance shall be taken on format.

4.5 Working at Height Permit

For all working at height (of 2M or above) a permit for “Working at Height” is required. Before erection, when scaffold materials are kept at site of erection, “Pre Erection Checklist for Scaffold” shall be carried out in prescribed form. All tubular scaffolds needs to checked and certified before being used. The medical certificate for workmen, required to work at height is required.

4.6 Works Exempted / Partially Exempted from Requirement of Permit

Routine work carried out by operations Dept. personnel (e.g. pump change over, furnace lighting, operating valves etc.). It is considered that safety measures are built-in in system while carrying out above works and covered in Operating manuals.

  • Routine work carried out on equipment taken into workshop by maintenance dept. and routine operation of workshop equipment (except hot work permit).
  • Routine testing of samples and handling chemicals in Quality Control Laboratory (except hot work permit).
  • Jobs carried out during emergencies (fire/ explosion, rescue, uncontrolled release of hazardous chemicals etc.) to control the emergency.
  • Work carried out at construction site with management approval (except permit for hot work, radiography and working at height)

5. General Requirements of Work Permit

5.1 All maintenance/ alteration/ construction jobs in the plant shall be carried out under valid “Permit to Work” only. Normally operating personnel do not require work permit for carrying out routine work, however in exceptional cases where they are likely to be exposed to certain risks, work permit is required. The requirement of work permit in such cases is to be decided by Safety Officer / Zone Incharge of the area/ section in-charge.

5.2 Separate permit should be issued for each job. Multiple jobs in a single permit are prohibited, except Entry to confined space and hot work inside the confined space in particular equipment. In such cases a composite permit can be issued and permit must address all the applicable aspects for both the works.

5.3 Permits and clearances shall be in printed forms, in duplicate or triplicate, depending on nature of job, serially numbered, Format Number and different colour code should be adopted for different types of permits and clearances.

5.4 Duly signed “Dos and Don’ts” for related jobs shall be attached with each permit and safety guidelines mentioned shall be complied at work site. (Committee may suggest during study period)

5.5 Depending on nature of jobs, type of permit required shall be decided.

5.6 Working at Height Permit’ shall be required for working at a height of 2.0 meters and above on a temporary structure or on a fixed structure, not meant for carrying out particular job safely.

  1. For all scaffolds, pre-erection checklist in prescribed form shall be carried out before start of erection and the safety guidelines shall be complied.
  2. Safety harness with lifelines secured chain pulley, hoist with a fixed structure is a must for working at height.
  3. Provision of safety net should also be made.
  4. All scaffolds shall be checked and certified in prescribed form before use.
  5. The workmen involved in working at height should have medical certificate from a doctor.
  6. Permit for working at height jobs, the following is to be ensured:
  • All tools should be carried in tool kits to avoid their falling.
  • Throwing or dropping of material/ equipment from height is prohibited.
  • Avoid jumping from one member to another of a structure. Use proper passageway.
  • Both hands should be free, while climbing the ladder. Bypassing the steps of ladder should be avoided.
  • Avoid movements on overhead beam without proper fall protection.
  • For details of hazards, precautions and other safety features refer standard.

5.7 All excavation permits, excavation clearance is mandatory in prescribed form. Additionally for Closure of road, permission to be taken in prescribed form and information of the same shall be circulated to all concerned in prescribed format. For Excavation Permit jobs, the following shall be ensured:

5.8 A warning or protective barricade of 1 meter height with red & white band/ self-glowing caution board should be provided around excavation site. Excavated material should be piled at least one meter away from the edge of the excavation / trench or depth of the trench whichever is more.

5.9 Provision of minimum two entries/exits should be made. Additionally in case of long trench for each 7.5 M and part there of, there should one ladder. Safe angle of repose or proper shoring/strutting to prevent cave-in should be provided as per relevant codes and safe operating practices. Excavation clearance shall be obtained from various dept. in prescribed format before applying for excavation permit.

5.10 Permit issuing authority shall satisfy that permit conditions are met before issuing permit. It is also to be ensured that permit conditions are maintained in course of execution of the job.

5.11 No hot work shall be permitted unless the Explosimeter shows zero. Entry into confined space, where no hot work is to be carried out, may be permitted if combustible gases are lower explosive limit. Entry with an air-supplied mask may be permitted. The oxygen level should be at least 19.5 vol. % and the concentration of toxic gases below the threshold limit.

5.12 Confined Space box-up clearance in prescribed form shall be obtained for only those spaces, where “Confined Space Entry” permit has been taken. The clearance shall be obtained in duplicate and a copy shall be returned to issuer on completion of work.

5.13 For all “Electrical isolation and energisation of equipment / line-HT” or “Electrical isolation and energisation of equipment / line-LT” permit (Inter Dept.) shall be taken, depending on the case. Similarly “Permit to work on HT line and Equipment” or “Permit to work on LT line and Equipment” shall be taken by user Deptt., depending on the case. Clearance certificate shall also be taken as the case may be.

5.14 Before issuing a permit, equipment is to be inspected to ensure that the equipment/ facility is prepared for safe execution of the assigned work, the area is cleaned and all safety precautions have been adopted. Wherever necessary, ensure that equipment is isolated, drained/ depressurized, properly purged, water flushed, gas tested (including oxygen deficiency test) through portable gas meters and readings have been recorded in the permit.

6.1. Shift / Section Incharge :

Carry out random check of work sites under permit, particularly the jobs at critical locations if process units in operation, Tank farm, Gantries, LPG facilities, construction sites etc. and take immediate corrective measures.

He shall review and check the request submitted by the workmen of a particular section to assess the safety requirement mentioned in the permit for their adequacy and may check physically some critical checklist compliance such as gas test, isolation, tagging, implementation etc. and recommend corrective measures before signing the permit.

For all critical activities, he will thoroughly check the work site condition (such as hot work in running unit / near lines, working at height, entry in confined space, radiography etc.) and compliance of permit conditions at site before signing with his experience he may visualize additional hazards/ risks in jobs, which needs to be addressed and will add this in permit for compliance. Before signing he shall ensure that conditions mentioned in permit by user are fully complied at site.

He should withdraw the permit, if the conditions in permit/ clearance are violated or the job is no safer due to some other reasons. The information about the withdrawal should be communicated to all concerned. He will log the same, report to concerned HOD and discuss with Safety Officer.

  • Check that authorized signatories have signed the permit at respective column.
  • Permit is properly filled up such as period, location, nature of job etc. and all the columns of the checklist are addressed.
  • Gas test has been done and their reading mentioned in case of Hot work and Entry into Confined Space permit. Report to Shift in-charge of station.

6.2 Head of Department:

  • To assess necessity of job beyond normal working hours.
  • To assess the adequacy of safety precautions mentioned in permit and may reinforce, if required.
  • May get an independent check to see the safety compliance at site.
  • To prepare the equipment/ facility/ area properly prepared before handing over for Maint./ Repair/ construction / inspection as per written down procedure.
  • Ensure that equipment/ facilities and area of work are safe for particular work.
  • Permit is properly filled up and precautions are categorically mentioned.
  • Gas test (must for storage at distillery and molasses tanks etc.) has been carried out, if required. (Gas test is mandatory for hot work and entry into confined space).
  • HOD shall ensure before signing any work permit finally that the atmosphere tested is gas free or gas levels are within permissible limits for the assigned job and satisfy himself that all necessary precautions have been taken so that the atmosphere remains under control during the work.
  • Avoid giving general/ vague remarks on permit, which is not specific.
  • For working at height, ensure that there is provision of safe access to the work site and there is provision of ladder/ platform/ chain pulley / hoist / scaffold for safe execution of work. Check those scaffolds provided are with green tags.
  • Ensure positive isolation of energy and decide about the extent of isolation required for the job. Refer chapter on “Energy isolation- electrical and process.
  • Permit or clearance shall not be issued until and unless he is satisfied that points mentioned in work permit has been fully complied and the area as such is safe to perform the particular work. Positive isolation of all energy sources shall be ensured for confined spaces.
  • Close the permit on completion of work and retain the copy for at least three months. Copies of “Hot work/ Entry into confined space” shall be returned to Fire station after close out.
  • Keep your copy of permit always with you. Don’t sign the permit without authority.

6.3. Head of Safety or Safety Officer:

  • To check the need of blanket permit for the work
  • Is the area safe for the job for the purpose of blanket permit?
  • To assess the adequacy of safety precautions mentioned in permit and may reinforce, if required.
  • May get an independent check to see the safety compliance at site.
  • To check that resources are mobilized at site to arrest any accidental release of tank containment.

6.4. Receiver (Permittee) / Executing Authority :

  • On issue of permit, Receiver (Permittee) should go through the permit and pass the instruction down the line as has been mentioned in the permit for compliance. In case of any doubt, he should clarify from Issuer.
  • Do not sign without authority.
  • Ensure that precautions mentioned in the permit are complied at site.
  • Ensure that equipment being used is safe and accurate to perform the task in particular area.
  • Ensure that all power driven equipment including the cables, insulation of cables & cable joints etc. are as per standard and are maintained in healthy condition.
  • Make the permit available at work site all the time during the work.
  • Work at specified location only.
  • Ensure use of approved type of spark arresters on exhaust.
  • The checking and certifying including providing tag on each scaffold shall be the responsibility of executing authority.
  • All jobs shall be done as per established maintenance practices and relevant safety norms.
  • Check and ensure availability of valid medical fitness certificate for workmen, working at a height of 2M or above under “Work at Height” permit.
  • Clear the site on completion of work.
  • Close the permit on completion of work and hand it over to issuing authority.

7. Work Permit Procedure / Guidelines

7.1 Electrical Isolation and Energisation Permit

Before issuing any permit for maintenance of equipment, having electrical connection, the Shift-in-charge (Operation) shall request the In-charge of user section / Dept. for isolating equipment electrically through format depending on the case. These permits have 3 parts with tear off facility

After completion of maintenance activity, removal of man and material and clearing of site and ensuring that equipment is safe for operation, owner section / deptt. agency shall declare that equipment is safe for operation and fill the clearance for charging which includes the date and time of returning the permit. After ensuring that equipment is safe for operation the electrical operation group shall energise the equipment.

7.2 Permit for Working at Height

Permit for Working at height issued in prescribed format shall be considered issued for job after “Clearance renewal” is signed. For carrying out job beyond normal working hours (General Shift) or on Sundays / Holidays, permission shall be obtained from respective HOD. Working at height should be avoided in adverse weather conditions, such as during rain, high wind, combination of high temperature & humidity.

The checklist shall be in duplicate. In case a scaffold is in continuous use for more than a week, it shall be re-checked and certified at an interval of every week. A scaffold is also required to be checked and certified, whenever any alternation / modification is done in scaffold or if the scaffolds are subjected to severe climatic conditions. All scaffolds not ready for use shall be tagged in Red colour.

All ladders shall be inspected in prescribed format by custodian once in month. Pre-use of ladder shall be a carried out by user before every use in prescribed format. The persons working at height should be medically examines for their fitness for working at height. The format for Medical Certificate is attached. The certified shall be issued by registered medical practitioner and it will be valid for a period not exceeding 1 year.

7.3 General Permit Requirements

  • The permit is issued in Triplicate. The original (green in colour) and 2nd copy (white in colour) will be for the Permittee/ Receiver. Issuing authority will retain 1st copy (white in colour). The period of validity, in terms of the date, start time and completion time should be entered.
  • The location of the work shall be specified clearly in terms of the plant, plant area, building, vessel or equipment. Identification number of the equipment shall be mentioned. Wherever it is necessary location sketch should be attached with the permit for clarity.
  • In case the job is planned to be executed through a contractor, permit shall be raised and signed by concerned section Incharge / safety / hod of maintenance / process / civil engineer and not by the contractor.
  • Respective unit head shall issue the appropriate authority limits for various types of permits as suggesting by the committee later on.
  • Entire unit shall be divided into various zones as already presently divided in safety zones wise. For each zone, zone Incharge and section Incharge shall be jointly authorized. Normally, we may prefer to appoint Asstt. Mgr. and above grade officers designate for authority for work permit. In addition, all section head shall be authorized as authority for work permit for the entire section of unit. All HODs of their respective area are authorized to sign.
  • Engg. Head / General Manager at units shall authorize Permittee/ receivers for all types of work permit. List of authorized Permit Signatories and Permittee/ receivers shall be updated and issued to all concerned at least once in a year.
  • All permits shall be clearly filled for validity of time & date, nature of work and location of work by permittee/ receiver before seeking permit from issuer. For obtaining work permit, permittee shall fill up above information and send duly signed copy to the issuer.
  • Work permit is a document, which certifies that all practicable precautions have been taken for carrying out the job safely. Hence, it is desirable that the work permit form shall be filled up by the authority after checking and ensuring that the site/ facility / equipment as mentioned in the permit is safe to perform the assigned job. Authority shall satisfy himself that all precautions have been taken to ensure that the work site is free from hazardous & toxic gases and there is no other risk deficiency and will remain so during execution of the job. After filling the permit format the issuer shall hand over the signed permit to receiver.
  • In case of Hot work/ entry into vessel/ Boxing up of vessel/ excavation/ Vehicle entry permit, authority has to crosscheck that the preconditions of permit is complied at site, before signing the permit. The receiver will go through the permit, check the compliance and sign the permit before carrying out the job. The receiver will pass the necessary instructions to working personnel as mentioned in the permit before start of job.
  • Whenever a person is entering in a confined space/ mill house / vessel/ excavation, minimum two designated trained persons shall be kept at the man-way or entry point. The designated person shall be in constant communication with the persons inside the confined space and take corrective action in case of any emergency situation.
  • In case, electricity is involved, authority shall request electrical section for electrical isolation in prescribed permit. No work permit shall be issued unless electrical isolation is obtained. Extent of isolation for safe execution of job shall be as per standard.
  • Permits shall be available and displayed at the job site while the job is being executed. The issuer and user section / Deptt. shall retain their copies of work permit.
  • All copies of permits shall be collected, signed and returned to the issuing authority after completion of the job by the permittee. It is to be ensured that the area has been cleared of all debris, scraps, additional materials etc. and all temporary electrical connections have been removed.
  • The issuer on receiving back the permit would satisfy himself regarding completion of the job and that the area has been cleaned and made safe for operation. On confirmation he shall also sign the Cold work permit/ Working at height permit and keep the records of closed out permit for period of three months. In case of Hot work/ Entry to Confined Space and Excavation permit, the permit shall be forwarded to user section / Department along with the issuer’s copy and the record of closed out permit shall be maintained at Safety Department for a period of three months.
  • All permits must be displayed at work site at suitable locations. To protect the permit from weather condition, it shall be displayed in waterproof plastic cover. Wherever required a separate stand may be kept at site to display the permit.
  • In specific cases such as Unit turnarounds the authority to sign / approve the permit can be sub-delegated for specific period by local management by an Office Order, issued by respective unit head of the unit. However in all such cases, officers of HOD are signatories of the permit.
  • The location of zone and area of the plant shall be indicated in Red Colour and green colour respectively on plant layout drawing, displayed in all main control rooms of safety Stations.
  • Normally permit shall be considered issued for the job after “Clearance renewal” is signed by authority and receiver. This clearance on the same permit can be renewed / extended up to a maximum of seven calendar days. Zone and section Incharge of the area shall issue clearance renewal in each shift after checking permit conditions and ensuring compliance.
  • For Q.C. Laboratory and Workshop or any place, where hot work is required almost everyday and the area is safe for the hot job, the coverlet permit can be issued after compliance of permit conditions.
  • Work on Tall Chimneys – For the erection and repair of tall chimneys, tubular scaffolding shall be provided. A safety net shall be maintained at a suitable distance below the scaffold. Work on the outside without a safety harness attached by a lifeline to a rung, ring or other secure anchorage. Put tools between the safety harness and the body or in pockets not intended for the purpose. Work on chimneys in use unless the necessary precautions to avoid danger from smoke and gases have been taken. Work on independent chimneys shall not be carried on in high winds, icy conditions, fog or during thundering/lightening. All persons intended to work on chimney shall be exposed to medical examination and must carry valid Medical Certificate, showing their fitness for the job in prescribed form. Validity of such certificate shall be only 1 year.

7.4 Other Permit Requirements

  • Committee may suggest “Do’s and Don’ts” for each section, same copy (preferably bilingual – English and Hindi language) shall be attached to permit signed by Receiver and Issuer for “Hot work/ Entry into Confined Space permit”.
  • We should list out and clarify “hot Work” for further details about category of hot work. Committee may suggest.
  • All confined space, where man entry has been made against permit shall be boxed up after obtaining “CONFINED SPACE BOX-UP” clearance in prescribed form.
  • Equipment and surrounding areas shall be checked to ensure that they are free from any maintenance tools, equipments and inflammable gas using a portable gas tester.
  • Gas testing of atmosphere shall be mandatory for all hot works and Entry into confined space permit, spl in distillery.
  • Any heavy oil deposit, dried vegetation or other flammable / combustible materials within 8 M of a hot work site shall be cleared away.
  • No hot work shall be allowed within 15 M of any sample point, drain or relief valve outlet unless precautions have been taken to prevent the escape of flammable liquids and vapour.
  • All drain covers and surface manhole covers within 15 M of hot work site shall be covered properly. Particular care shall be taken to ensure that these seals are maintained in good condition.
  • If welding or grinding is to be done at height, then precautions shall be taken to prevent the spread of sparks and molten metal by surrounding the work area with fire-resisting or flame retarding tarpaulin. Arrangement shall also be made to quench and extinguish sparks and molten slag by applying water through a hose.
  • A minimum number of 2 fire extinguishers shall be available for each hot work within 8 M from the place of work.
  • A hose with a control type discharge nozzle, capable of reaching up to the hot work point and connected to fire hydrant shall be provided during all hot work. There shall be either be a continuous flow of water through the hose or it shall be kept pressurized up to the discharge nozzle.
  • For detail safety requirements & precautions for hot work refer standard on “Hot Work” and for safety precautions during Entry into Confined Space including gas test, refer standard.

8. Surrendering of Work Permit

On completion of a Cold work and Working at height, the permits (original with copies) shall be signed by permittee and returned to the issuer. The issuer shall retained the copies of various permits in chronological order in folder for a period of minimum 3 months from the date of closure of permit or from the date of commissioning of facilities, whichever comes later. On completion of a “Hot work/ Entry to Confined Space” and “Excavation”, the permit (original and copies) shall be signed by permittee and returned to the issuer along with clearance certificate.

The issuer will then send the permits to HOD of user section / Department along with their copies. In case of serious lapse or violation of permit conditions, where safety of the working personnel or equipment is likely to be affected, the execution of the job can be stopped by permit issuing/ executing dept, Fire and Safety personnel or any other personnel authorized by the Management for the purpose. In case of any accident or fire at the work site, the permit shall get automatically cancelled. Fresh permit shall be obtained for restarting the job.

9. Surveillance & Withdrawal of Permit

The permit issuing authority and executing authority shall inspect the work site frequently to ensure that permit conditions are being complied and maintained. Officers and staff of authority along with zone and section / Deptt. Incharge shall make surprise checks at the sites where jobs against work permit are in progress. The permit can be withdrawn by issuing authority, executing authority, Safety personnel or any person authorized by management in case of violation of permit condition, plant emergency or any other unsafe situation.

10. Training & Awareness

Training and awareness programs are to be organized from time to time for issuer & receiver of permit to make them conversant about work permit system. These programs should include “REFRESHER CLASS ROOM” as well as “ON THE JOB TRAINING” like filling of permits, assessing hazards and correction, Work Permit procedure, atmosphere monitoring with portable gas testers and carrying out different jobs safety.

Awareness programs should be arranged in the form of “Refresher Class Room Training” as well as “On the job training” for contractors (Supervisor and their workmen) about work permit system.

11. Review

Review of work permit system shall be carried out at least every year or following a major and/or high-potential incident / accidents or change in statuary requirements / norms.

12. Audit of Work Permit System

The Work Permit System shall be audited at least annually by a multi disciplinary team constituted by the management for the purpose.