In the first post on ‘e-permit insights’ we covered the basics of what a permit-to-work is and how and when they’re used.
Many companies have well-defined processes, traditionally implemented through paper-based systems – the issue with paper-based systems arising as a disconnect between health & safety policy and what is actually happening on the ground.
e-permits were developed to reduce that disconnect.
Without exception, our best clients already had well conceived permit-to-work processes, devised and honed to mitigate the risks posed by their individual environments. But they all recognised the limitations of a paper-based process. They knew that the H&S policy and standards they set centrally were not translating into corresponding action in the field and the larger the geography of their portfolio, the worse the problems they encountered.
The ‘disconnect’ between policy and action left workers unprotected and inevitably the duty holders felt exposed. The issue was brought into sharp focus in April 2008 by the introduction of The Corporate Manslaughter Act which built on the existing Health & Safety at Work Act. Under the law, organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care. Senior executives took a keener interest in the risks they faced and attended seminars to understand the consequences of failure. Perhaps not surprisingly, Banyards experienced a surge in enquiries for the e-permits solution from very large organisations.
It’s important to note that Banyards’ clients are not looking to change their processes; they simply need to breathe life into what they already do. For each client, Banyards configures the e-permits system to emulate their existing processes, automating the checks specified in their policies, involving the right people for each scenario and pushing vital information – such as clashes, known hazards and lacking competences – to decision makers, so they can make better informed and safer decisions. In effect, e-permits programmes in the ‘diligence’ that is lacking. The consequence is a step-change in performance – risks are reduced, incidents diminished and with them, the financial, human and reputational costs associated with those failures. Business managers are finally fulfilling their Duty of Care.
Benefits of e-permits
The product has fundamentally changed people’s behaviour. It is well-known that disreputable contractors and supply chain companies used to train their supervisors to circumvent paper-based permit-to-work systems which meant that health and safety policies were not followed and the lives of contractors, employees and visitors were put at risk. Paper-based permits are vulnerable to this kind of activity.
Web-based permits are transparent and automated which means they cannot be circumvented. In addition health and safety performance history for each company in the supply chain is included which means that clients wanting to improve their health and safety performance and reduce accidents on their projects, and the associated financial and reputational damage, choose contractors with a strong health and safety record. Over the years, this has driven out of business poorly-managed contractors and improved the H&S performance of others.
“The e-permits system makes us more aware of when contractors are coming. Being in a prison, we have a lot of high risk activity, we need to know that they are competent before starting the work, it also ensures that we have the right permit and safety in place for our own workers.”Clare Titchener, Sodexo, Justice Services, HMP Peterborough