By | August 23, 2021

Earlier this year, IChemE—which is an almost 100-year-old chemical engineering profession not-for-profit institution released its “Supplementary Guide—Permit to Work.

In it, IChemE provided guidance about Permit to Work processes and defined metrics that will help companies identify the effectiveness and success of their organization’s Permit to Work programs and procedures. “This guidance note is intended to provide context for the Lead Metric ‘Permit to work checks performed to plan’ and ‘Permit to work nonconformance,’ and expand on those metrics,” the guide says. “This guidance should be used to help identify suitable performance metrics for your system.”

All of this, of course, aligns with Sphera’s Control of Work solution, which provides robust Permit to Work capabilities. Much like homeowners are required to get permits to do work on their homes, Permit to Work is a key compliance requirement, which hazardous industries in particular use to request, review, authorize and document specific work throughout the plant. Think of it as your frontline defense against operational risks.

4 Ways Sphera’s Control of Work Aligns With IChemE Guidance

1. Request

When the need for a permit arises, the requesting party can initiate the request process through integration with the computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) as well as directly in Sphera’s Control of Work solution. This is a critical process where accuracy, completeness and efficient coordination are critical elements, and these elements are positively impacted using the solution through automating data transfer to reduce turnaround time, reduce reliance on manual communication (emails, etc.) and eliminate errors. These elements are recognized in the IChemE permit to work guidance document. Control of Work users can leverage built-in analytics and associated reports to measure the relevant metrics defined by IChemE such as the number/percentage of planned vs. unplanned permits. Control of Work improves the requesting process across the board using integrations, templates, automated communication and more.

2. Plan

After a permit request has been submitted, it is time to plan the permit scope and evaluate the associated risks. The risk assessment process is extremely important in ensuring the thoroughness and completeness of a permit. Sphera’s Control of Work provides a structured risk assessment framework based on the job type which allows the users to:

  • Identify and implement all appropriate controls
  • Evaluate any and all potential job conflicts and simultaneous operations (SIMOPS)
  • Manage necessary isolations
  • Specify permit type and any other required control certificates or documentation
  • Specify permit conditions, warnings and instructions
  • Identify tasks and specific roles in the permit lifecycle
  • Efficiently and completely plan permits

Control of Work not only provides a solution for these processes, but also provides a way to measure and improve these processes. Using Control of Work’s updated user interface and enhanced permit planning functionality, you can ensure your teams are working safely. With enhancements to the isolation planning space such as interactive piping and instrumentation diagrams (P&IDs), you can plan more seamlessly and ensure your teams are provided accurate and useful documentation. After enhancing your process with Sphera CoW, you can measure your progress in accordance with iChemE guidance. The IChemE guidance discusses measuring the planning process by determining the “Number/percentage of permits issued where the hazards, risks and control measures (including isolations) were adequately specified.”

To measure planning effectiveness, there needs to be a system with actionable data to track trends over time and improve processes. Control of Work provides the necessary actionable data while providing a working solution that increases planning effectiveness.

3. Execute

The IChemE guidance outlines an eight-step process, and four of those steps are focused on permit execution. Implementing isolations and controls, review and verify, issue and accept, and perform work activity are all actions in the Permit to Work process. Sphera’s Control of Work is designed to guide users through the implementation of isolations and controls by providing accurate documentation in a printed paper form or directly from the system, even from the field. Reviewing and verifying controls is handled within the system providing clear communication while recording live feedback from field users as well. Issuing and accepting permits is handled with roles and permissions to ensure procedures are being followed and the appropriate individuals are involved. Providing feedback from the field helps operational leaders stay in the know while work is being performed with information, such as permit status, active job counts, deviations and more. The live data feedback provides invaluable insight about operational risk in real time.

4. Permit Closure

With the ability to enforce and govern safe work practices, companies can reduce the number of incidents and near-misses. With a centralized and accessible solution, organizations can increase efficiency by automating communication and decreasing turnaround time. CMMS integrations allow companies to plan jobs ahead of time by providing visibility into upcoming work and facilitating forecasting. The list of benefits is long, but a major benefit is, of course, around permit closure. Supervisors always need to know exactly what is happening, including job status, and with this system supervisors have this information available to them at all times. Users can now target certain areas or specific jobs to understand the full picture of those tasks through permit closure. Another reality is that not all permits are closed out or returned as they should be, and this is not always avoidable; however, with the digital system that Sphera’s Control of Work provides the entire burden or record-keeping and review is relieved in accordance with IChemE guidance. Audits can be facilitated by easy access to any historical records. Continuous improvement efforts become more targeted, and specific types of records can be searched, retrieved and reviewed in mass. Metrics such as the number/percentage of permits that were not correctly canceled can be easily tracked and pain points identified.

Measuring the Process

IChemE has provided valuable guidance on not only the Permit to Work process, but also on how to measure it. Sphera’s Control of Work aligns with the defined Permit to Work process as well as metrics used to track the program’s effectiveness. The benefits of a digital Permit to Work solution are extensive, but the ability to accurately track and use actionable data will take any Permit to Work program to the next level.