Permit to work

Manage especially hazardous, complex or non-routine tasks

A permit to work is a formal process used to manage special hazardous, complex or non-routine tasks, with the aim of completing them without risks to the safety and health of employees and others, or to the environment.

The process is used to authorise work within the terms explained in the permit.

It will also help all different parties involved, to communicate and agree on:

  • the responsibilities of the different people involved
  • what will be done, how and when the task will be performed
  • the hazards associated with the tasks
  • what needs to be done to make sure the area is safe on completion and before other activities resume
  • different measures needed to carry out the task safely, such as
    • how to check that these measures are in place before starting the activity
    • how to check them while the task is taking place

When do you need a permit?

You should consider the use of a permit to work for high-risk activities that could affect the safety of people, the plant or the environment and which require additional precautions for the work to be carried out safely.

Permits to work are normally used for work that is not part of the routine or normal production of the workplace, such as maintenance, inspections, testing and cleaning. Also for work where different parties need to co-ordinate their activities to complete the job safely.

These are some examples of situations when a permit to work might be needed.

  • Hot work (welding, grinding, flame cutting), or work that could produce sparks or other sources of ignition.
  • Work on the proximity of high voltage or live electrical equipment.
  • Entry to and work in confined spaces.
  • Pressure testing.
  • Work that affects evacuation, space or rescue systems.
  • Work at height.
  • Heavy lifting (crane work).

What the permit to work should include?

The permit to work should reflect the complexity of the job that it is created for.

It should include, as a minimum the following details.

  • Job location – explain where the job will take place and any areas that will be affected.
  • Plant identification – clarify what plant and equipment will be affected and used during the job.
  • Description of work to be done – give a clear explanation of what the job entails.
  • Hazard identification – detail all the hazards related to the job.
  • Precautions necessary – list all the precautions required to carry out the task, including isolation and checks required prior to the task starting.
  • Emergency procedures – explain the procedures to follow if something goes wrong and first aid arrangements.
  • Protective equipment – list items required to carry out the task safely and without risk to health.

Issuing a permit

The permit should be signed by the person with authority within the organisation.

This should be done when it has been confirmed that all precautions have been taken and the task can commence safely.

It should also state the date and the duration of the validity of the permit, and therefore when the job needs to be carried out.

  • Acceptance – the permit to work should be signed confirming that those involved understand the conditions of the permit, and how to carry out the task safely.
  • Extension procedures – for situations when the job needs to be continued beyond the agreed timescales.
  • Hand-back – this should be signed by both parties when the work has been completed.
  • Cancellation – completed when the work has been finished and the area is safe again.

You can read more about permits to work at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

The permit to work in petroleum industry document (external link) from the HSE explains a permit to work procedure. It’s aimed at the petroleum industry but the basic ideas and principles can be applied to other industries.