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From Process Engineering, 06 May 2003,
Permits reduce the paper

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 investigation.
To tackle these problems, London-based safety specialist aSAP has 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 flammable materials.
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 own secure 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 adds.

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