Code of practice for permits to work

Purpose of permits to work

Permits to work are a formal management system used to control high risk activities. These enable an assessment of risks to be made and to specify control measures which will be put in place in order to minimise the risk.

Permits to work will usually be necessary for such activities as maintenance or construction work by external contractors or University staff, unless a risk assessment indicates otherwise.

Examples of the types of work for which permits will be required include:

  • Working at height, including on roofs
  • Working in confined spaces, for example, ducts
  • Hot work. That is welding, soldering or cutting using hot flame techniques outside of designated workshop area.
  • Isolation of or modification to fire safety systems, alarms, etc
  • Live working on electricity supply systems
  • Work involving interaction with asbestos
  • Work in areas where there is a risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals or microorganisms.
  • Excavation and the digging of trenches

The intention of the permit to work is to:

  • Ensure that the work which is  intended to take place is properly authorised
  • Clarify the nature and extent of the work
  • Specify which precautions must be taken and which activities are prohibited. Consideration should also be taken of the activities of other parties which may impact on or be affected by the proposed work. These activities may need to be temporarily suspended or modified.
  • Indicate the date, time and location that the specified activities may occur
  • Ensure that all those persons who have control of or are affected by the activity are aware
  • Provide a record of the work, that the specified precautions have been understood and enacted, and that the workplace and or equipment is returned to a safe condition.

Preparation for permit to work

The process for drawing up a permit to work, as outlined in the flow chart, is described here.

The permit should usually be drawn up by the University member of staff who has arranged for the work to take place, the person who is supervising the work.

  • Obtain and read the contractor’s method statement and risk assessment for the work to be undertaken. Challenge the contractor if these are considered to be insufficient.
  • Determine if the work to be carried out requires a permit to work. This will be the case if it is of the type described as above, unless a risk assessment indicates that it is already a low risk activity. Other high risk activities, which are not listed above may also require a permit to work.
  • Determine the type of permit(s) that is/are required. Blank permits exist for the following types of work, work at height, hot work, confined spaces, digging of trenches and for unspecified activities.
  • Gather the relevant information in relation to the work, including the intended starting time and date, the anticipated duration, a description of the task duration, and the names of those carrying out the work.
  • Inspect the intended location of the work. Considering the method statement, determine any additional measures or actions that are required in order to minimise risks associated with carrying out the intended task(s) at this location. This may include isolation of services such as electricity, or gas.  In order to determine the necessary actions, it may be necessary to call upon the expertise of others who are familiar with the location or the activities to be carried out. Other adjustments may need to be made before the work commences.
  • Determine a date, time and duration for the work to take place. The allocated duration should be sufficiently long enough to enable the job to be carried out in a satisfactory fashion.

 Filling out and issuing a permit to work

  • Write the reference number on the permit to work, in the space at the top right hand side of the permit. The number should be in a format such as yyyy/mm/ss/xx/zz, where yyyy is year, mm is month, ss is site reference, (e.g. GL for Gipsy Lane, MR for Marston Road) xx is a unique running number, and zz are the initials of the  person raising the permit). For example e.g. 2008/03/GL/05/JS, would be the fifth permit drawn up for work to be carried out at Gipsy Lane by John Smith during March 2008
  • Write the relevant information (location of work , Section 1,  type of work, Section 2,  tools to be used section 3, safety measures and precautions to be taken, section 4) on the to the Permit to Work.
  • Write the designated starting and finishing time of the job in section 5
  • In order to grant permission for the work to be carried out, Section 5 will be signed by the University member of staff who has arranged for the work to take place, the person who is supervising the work.
  • When satisfied that sections 1-5 have been completed, a University member of staff with designated safety responsibility (University Safety Officer, Assistant Safety Officer, or Property Services Health and Safety Officer), will sign section 6 of the permit.
  • The University member of staff supervising the work will clarify with the contractor the precautions that are required to be carried out, as detailed in the permit
  • The permit will be issued to the contractor carrying out the work, who will sign section 7. By signing the permit, the contractor confirms that they, and those under their control, will adhere to the conditions described in the permit.
  • A copy will be retained by the person with responsibility for managing the project, the person who signed section 5
  • The permit will be displayed at the place of work, during the time at which the work is taking place.
  • When the work is complete the contractor will return the site to a safe and tidy condition and will sign section 8 to indicate that the work have been completed.
  • The signed off form will be returned to the person who signed section 5 and will be retailed for a period of at least 12 months.
  • If the job for which a permit was issued is not completed within the time designated by the permit, it will be necessary to either extend the duration of the permit, if it is safe to do so, or issue a new permit for another period of time. The University member of staff authorising the work and the University member of staff supervising the work will agree and implement the appropriate action.

Guidance for permit issuing for specific types of task

Working at heights, including roof access

A permit to work will be required if a risk assessment carried out following examination of the contractor’s method statement indicates that there is a risk of a hazard such as a fall from height, a fall of an object from height, exposure to radiation or hazardous fumes or any other significant hazard. In which case the measures taken to minimise the risk will be indicated in section 4 of the permit.

Confined spaces, including ducts

Whenever possible, the need to enter confined spaces should be avoided, alternative methods should be considered to undertake the task. Entry by a person should only be undertaken if there is no reasonable alternative.

A confined space is defined as ‘any place, including any chamber, tank, vat, silo, pit, trench, pipe, sewer, flue, well or similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, there arises a reasonably foreseeable specified risk’

Foreseeable risks include:

A lack of oxygen.  This can occur:
- where there is a reaction between some soils and the oxygen in the atmosphere;
- following the action of groundwater on chalk and limestone which can
produce carbon dioxide and displace normal air;
- inside steel tanks and vessels when rust forms.

If a risk assessment indicates that the oxygen level may be low, arrangements should be made to measure the oxygen level at the place of work within the confined space, before entering. The confined space must not be entered unless the oxygen level is in the range 18-22%. Details of the appropriate measurements, and results, if necessary, will be given in section 3 of the permit.

If the oxygen levels are below 18% it may be appropriate to permit suitably trained personnel to enter the confine space using an appropriate form of breathing apparatus. Details of the methods to be used will be given in section 4 of the permit.

Poisonous gas, fume or vapour.  These can:
- build-up in sewers and manholes and in pits connected to the system;
- enter tanks or vessels from connecting pipes;
- leak into trenches and pits in contaminated land, such as old refuse tips and
  old gas works.

If a risk assessment indicates that there is a reasonable possibility that poisonous or asphyxiating gases may be present, appropriate steps must be made to measure their concentration, before entering the confined space. Details of the appropriate measurements, and results, if necessary, will be given in section 4 of the permit.
If dangerously high levels of a poisonous or asphyxiating gas are found to be present, it may be appropriate to permit suitably trained personnel to enter the confined space using an appropriate form of breathing apparatus. Details of the methods to be used will be given in section 3 of the permit.  

Flammable materials

Entry to the confined space should be prohibited if a risk assessment indicates that there is a reasonable possibility that there may be flammable liquids or vapours present which may give rise to a fire or explosion. 

Entry of materials

Entry to the confined space should be prohibited unless the possibility of the entry of liquids and solids which can suddenly fill the space, which may result in a person being drowned, asphyxiated or otherwise injured, has been eliminated. If it is necessary to put such isolations in place, these will be indicated in section 4 of the permit.

Heat

If a risk assessment indicates that hot conditions may exist which could lead to a dangerous increase in body temperature, appropriate steps will be taken, for example, limiting the exposure time, in order to minimise the risk of injury. The appropriate steps will be indicated in section 4 of the permit.

Means of escape or rescue

The means by which a person in a confined space can escape or be rescued in the event of an emergency should be indicated in section 4 of the permit. 

Hot work

Hot work includes working with flame cutting apparatus, oxyacetylene welding apparatus, electric welding apparatus, blow lamps, grinding equipment, working with bitumen boilers or any other equipment producing flame, intense heat or sparks.

The following precautions must be in place:

  • Personnel trained in use of fire extinguishers must be in the working team.
  • At least one appropriate fire extinguisher must be at the place of work.
  • The work area is to take place must be cleared of flammable materials.
  • Heat or smoke detectors should be isolated before hot work begins.
  • Remain at the workplace for at least 30 minutes after hot work ends.
  • Remove isolation from heat or smoke detectors after hot work ends.

If a risk assessment indicates that additional precautions are required, these will be indicated in section 4 of the permit.  

Excavations

A permit to work is required for all excavation work, digging of trenches and the like which is carried out within University premises.

Prior to issuing the permit, the person arranging the work to take place will ensure that there is sufficient information regarding underground services such as electricity and data cable runs, water or gas pipe work and will have sufficient information regarding ground conditions and surrounding buildings. The Directorate of Estates and Facilities Management’s Tree and Construction Policy and Procedure will be followed where digging operations are to occur in the vicinity of trees. This policy is available from the Directorate’s Property Safety Health and Safety Officer

Where contractors are to carry out excavations they must provide a method statement which is to give details of the method of excavation, precautions to prevent trench collapse, fencing around the trench, PPE to be utilised and the process for reinstatement of the excavation. 

Other work activities

Similar procedures will be followed for permits for other hazardous procedures, including live working on electricity supply systems, work involving interaction with asbestos and work in areas where there is a risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals or microorganisms.

Permits