By Stuart Nathan
Release and management of safety permits is becoming
increasingly important in the process sector. Plant workers need to
complete these permits before beginning maintenance work on several
types of process equipment, and the permits then need to be signed
off by a supervisor.
Including information on the types of hazards that
might be encountered at the work site, and the protective equipment
needed, the permits are legally binding documents.
Traditionally, permits are handled on paper.
However, document handling can lead to problems: it can be difficult
to find the current status of a job, for example, while in the event
of an accident, paper trails can hinder the efficiency of the
To tackle these problems, London-based safety
devised an electronic permit-to-work system, called PCMS
(Permit Control and Monitoring System). Currently in use on one of
the production areas at Merck Sharpe & Dohme's plant in Ponders
End, the system uses PC functionality to ensure that the permit
system works safely.
The system, accessed through a password-protected
web browser, handles permits for pipeline, flame spark and confined
space permits. The system will not allow one permit to be issued for
a piece of equipment if another is already in place and there is a
possible safety clash - for example, it won't allow a flame spark
operation anywhere near somebody working on a pipeline with
Filling out the permit - which can be done on a
desktop PC or a portable PocketPC - takes the worker through the
risk assessment for the job, including access to safety data sheets
for all the substances that might be encountered. The safety sheets
are customised for each user's requirements, and are hosted on aSAP's
server, allowing changes to be made - in response to new
legislation, for example - in a matter of minutes, according to
safety director Addy Heshmati.
MSD are considering adopting the system plantwide at
Ponders End within a few months, Heshmati says. 'Our vision is that
our permit system will be the number one solution to management and
issue of all permit requirements within the process industry,' he