11th April 2017

Are you in control – permits to work!

Introduction

Following on from my last blog “contractors on site”, I expand on the topic of “Permits to Work”. The requirement for a permit is where work required has a significant element of risk i.e.:

  • Working at heights – ladders and platforms including scaffolding etc.
  • Live electrical works – work which can only be done whilst power it on or high voltage
  • Confined spaces – excavation work i.e. underground pipes (drainage)
  • Hot works – welding, soldering i.e. pipe work

A permit to work is defined by the HSE as:

“A 'permit to work' is a formal, written, safe system of work to control potentially hazardous activities. The permit details the work to be done and the precautions to be taken.”

How do I manage the risk?

Whilst “Permits to Work” will not be an everyday occurrence for managers of health and social care settings, it is, however, important that they have an understanding of the process and how best to protect their staff and residents from harm.

Key to managing the risk is having a basic understanding of the work required and how contractors will manage that risk. The basic contractor checks have been covered in the earlier blog “Contractors on site”.

Why do I need to be involved?

As the manager or someone with responsibility for managing a social care setting you will be involved with contractors on your site from time to time. It is your responsibility to ensure that effective control measures are in place to ensure the safety and welfare of all you have responsibility for including visitors, to protect them from harm.

What is my involvement with the “permit to work”- what do I need to do?

The social care setting receiving the contractor, in which it has been identified a “permit to work” is required, will both issue the permit and sign this off once the work is completed and the work area has been made safe. It is important to state that large-scale projects would be outside the scope of a local care provider and would have a professionally qualified health and safety professional involved. Here we are interested in short term work i.e. a couple of hours.

The HSE cites:

Permits should be issued, checked and signed off as being completed by someone competent to do so, and who is not involved in undertaking the work.”

It may be that, as a care provider, you have a competent person within the organisation who manages such activities however, they will not be available all the time and may be covering a large remit in terms of demographics. The receiving host ( Care home manager, surgery manager etc.) will need to sign these documents in their absence.

NB: No work can start which involves a “Permit to Work” unless it has been signed by both the competent person and each contractor involved in the permit.

What should be included on a “Permit to Work”?

A permit to work should have the following as basics:

  • Permit title
  • Permit reference number
  • Site Location
  • Equipment needed i.e.: ladders
  • Description of work required and limitations
  • Precautions necessary
  • Protective Equipment i.e.: PPE boots etc also extinguisher i.e.: hot works
  • Authorised persons (persons undertaking work)
  • Date and time work due to commence and be completed
  • Signatures agreeing. they understand what is required and will follow this agreed system (include date and time started)
  • Any hand-over procedures
  • Signing back in - work completed (including date and time completed)

Do I need specialist training?

No Manager should be expected to do tasks for which they have not received training. Increasing “IOSH Managing Safely” is being promoted as a requirement for local managers to give basic understanding of managing risk. The introduction of e-learning modules like “Permits to work”, (this is a separate topic) cover such knowledge gaps.

Am I competent to issue a permit?

A number of factors make up competence and the HSE cites the following definition:

A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need.”

Part of any professionals’ competence is knowing when to ask for help and knowing where to go for it! If you are not sure ask!

What does the law require?

Do to the nature of “Permits to Work” there can be a whole host of legislations, however for the local manager and care providers, in general, the overarching legislation is The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 3 (1) & 3 (2) covered in a previous blog *Contractors on site” however due to its importance I have included it below:

"3 (1) It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”

3 (2) It shall be the duty of every self-employed person to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that he and other persons (not being his employees) who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

The first part refers to the employer who under section 3 (1) must not expose contractors to unnecessary health and safety risks by the employers undertaking.

The second part places a duty on the contractor (or self-employed) who under section 3 (2) must not expose other people to health and safety risks by their (the contractors) undertaking.

 

References 

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 section 3 (gov.uk)

Managing Contractors - HSE (HSG159)

Isolation and Permits to work - HSE

A Competent Person - HSE

Are you in control – Contractors on Site! CQS

QCS Systems

QCS provide a range of policies and procedures, templates etc. to support your service in meeting the requirements of managing contractors on site.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Dave Bennion

Health and Safety Specialist

Dave is a multi-sited safety practitioner with extensive experienced in health and safety, fire safety, environmental management, quality and lean management consulting in a variety of industry setting. Dave is also the Director of DGB Health and Safety Ltd based in Bingley, West Yorkshire.

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