As on-site health & safety requirements seem to increase exponentially, the challenge for facilities managers in managing contractors grows consequentially. Philip Antoniou, MD of Ad Finem explains more.
Any successful initiative or innovation that help managers in handling this important responsibility is a valuable benefit.
The development of E-Permits to Work is just such an initiative.
It is important first to appreciate how many different contractors covering a wide range of services come under the responsibility of facilities managers, including suppliers, service providers and sub-contractors. They might be suppliers and contractors that the building owner has engaged, or those that the facilities management company has engaged to outsource some of their duties or to bring in specialist help when it’s needed. Together there may be quite a few companies that need permits and need to be managed on the premises at the same time.
Controlling the activities in which there are risks is an essential part of the management role. The established formal system is Permits to Work. These are guided by the Health and Safety Executive and are a major part of a facility management company’s health and safety procedures. They enable risks to be assessed and measures to be put in place to minimise the risk.
The traditional, current Permits to Work are a paper based system, which offer plenty of scope for improvement. In line with this, we at Ad Finem, an IT company specialising in services for facilities management companies, have been developing electronic permit to work systems to replace the aging paper permits that businesses use. Commonly called E-Permits, the electronic system is a digital way of managing permits. The systems ensure that permits move along a prescribed process to ensure compliance and reduce risk.
Using an electronic permit to work system offers some significant improvements over a paper system. The advantages fall into three categories:
- more accurate compliance with health and safety
- Increased functionality to manage work and risk
- significantly easier and faster to use
By using electronic permits to work, a facilities management company reduces opportunities for mistakes to be made, especially mistakes due to human error such as permits being approved by someone who is no longer qualified to manage them.
An electronic permit to work system offers significant functional advantages over a paper system;
- it allows easier management of permits by a group of staff, automatically taking care of staff absences, and balancing and spreading workload across staff.
- managers have full visibility and “at a glance” views to see the status of all permits and the system automatically identifies permits that are of interest to them
- easier management of Risk And Method Statements.
- automatic flagging of anything that has expired, such as expired staff training, expired Risk And Method Statements, overdue permits to work
- automatic identification and management of works that may conflict with each other
Electronic permits to work go a long way to reducing the labour and the paperwork involved in managing permits to work:
- users and managers can manage permits while on the move
- the system automatically guides the user step by step in an A,B,C fashion from the start to end of the permits life.
- a good electronic system means that staff require less training in managing permits to work
- complex works that may require multiple permits can be grouped by the system allowing users to manage these complex jobs in a simpler way
- an electronic system takes away the need for re-writing duplicate permits when a permit needs to be reissued or extended.
- permits are quicker to find and to understand their status
Although a facilities management company can gain all these advantages, it should take great care when selecting an electronic permit to work system. The most important criteria to consider when choosing which system to buy are to ensure that the system is fully compliant with health and safety legislation and has been designed to the highest level of usability to ensure that all the benefits of speed, accuracy, and ease of use are obtained.
During the last decade many businesses have made the move to cloud based systems, and in recent years the trend has increased rapidly. Electronic permit to work systems are ideally suited to the cloud, and if correctly set up, can also meet data and security requirements. Basing the system in the cloud allows managers to use the system while they are mobile, and makes it easy for contractors, suppliers and service providers to request permits from their own offices up front and in advance of work needing to begin, once again reducing labour and the potential for mistakes being made.
I expect that over the next few years E-Permits to work will replace most uses of paper permits and bring all these advantages to facilities management companies.