Permit to Work Services from an Industry Veteran

It is a key objective of EnerMech that we offer a total solution for our clients in the Power, Oil & Gas, Resources and Infrastructure sectors. An important element of delivering any project on time and most importantly, without incident is our expertise in High Voltage Operations and Permit To Work Systems.

Our team has been achieving some fantastic results in this space on a number of sites and were recently recognised for their effort on the APLNG Upstream Origin Water Treatment Facility Project. Our client Origin had implemented the “Every Day is Game Day” initiative, which was won by the EnerMech Permit to Work Team, “Lock and Unload” for increased levels of Safety, Environment, Quality and Progress. The hard work of the EnerMech team on this project paved the way for the on-time delivery of a significant project milestone, with first water being put down the FRIP (Fairymeadow Road Irrigation Pipeline). Well done to “Lock and Unload” and the other EnerMech teams involved in this important project.

We spoke to one of the key members of the winning team, Permit to Work Coordinator Bronwen, who has over 30 years’ experience in the industry. Bronwen started in the 1980’s before Permit’s even existed so she can provide a unique perspective on the evolution of Permit to Work systems.

So Bronwen, what does a typical day look like as a Permit to Work Coordinator in the field?

“A typical day changes constantly, so this is a tricky question. The main things I’d say are:

  • Receiving permit requests and reviewing the scope of work, deciding if an isolation is required, if so then isolate the plant so it is safe for work to be conducted. Issue the permit to the permit holder.

  • Conducting audits to ensure the system is compliant.

  • Conducting gas tests for confined spaces.

  • Scanning permits is a constant task

  • Importantly, every permit needs to be entered in the Permit register, which includes all the relevant details.”

    What tends to be your No.1 priority on a daily basis?

    “No work happens if our Permit’s aren’t in place so, issuing permits first thing in the morning to get the workers working as quickly as possible.”

    How did you get into Permit to Work Services?

    “I started before permits were used in the mid-1980s as a Unit Controller in a Power Station and grew along with the permit to work system. Back in the 80’s workers would come to the control room and I would go and isolate the plant and issue a very basic permit just to keep track of what work was being done.”

    What are the key personal skills you think you need to be a great Permit to Work Coordinator?

    “You need to have computer skills. The details are important when issuing a permit, attention to detail is very important. We also need to make sure we keep up-to-date on all the latest legislation, acts and codes of practice.”

    What part of the job do you find most satisfying personally?

    “Isolating, which is working out what needs to be isolated for the job to be done safely. I also enjoy training personnel in the Permit to Work System and answering questions and scoping out the job with the permit holder.”

    If someone was looking to become a Permit to Work Coordinator, what tickets to do you need to get into the field?

    You need a number of High Risk and Safety Courses. My best advice is to make sure you’ve got Confined Space and Working at Heights tickets as you can’t issue Confined Space or Working at Height Permits without these. Boiler and Turbine tickets are advisable especially if you’re working at a power station to be isolate and de-isolate. This will prevent you from having to work under other people’s tickets (I am wary of personnel working under my tickets as I take on the responsibility of their actions). I’ve included some of the other courses I would advise someone to take below.”

    Interested in upskilling to a Permit to Work role?

    Here are a few courses Bronwen has recommended




    Having seen the whole Permit to Work system come about and grow, what do you see as some areas the industry could improve on?

    The industry has changed for the better in the last 20 years but some things could still improve, for example I’d like to see an industry standard on colours for locks and commission tape. I also think Permit procedures for each state in Australia needs an overhaul so they are standardised.

    Could you expand on what you mean by colour coding and some changes you’d like to see in legislation?

    “Isolating and tagging is a critical procedure.

    The purpose for Tagging and Isolating equipment from sources of hazardous energy, including electricity, mechanical, hazardous substances and other sources of energy is to protect and maintain the security of plant and personnel working on equipment or being in the vicinity of work performed.

    The construction environment requires a less complex permit to work system due to the nature of the majority of work not requiring isolations to control hazards. The system can be simply managed by specific ‘stand-alone” work permits e.g. hot work, working at heights etc. Construction areas do not require the same strict level of application of permit to work coordination and control as a Commissioning or operational area.

    Red = Personal lock (This seems to be the colour of choice for the majority of companies). Isolation Locks, Boundary Locks and Commissioning Locks currently have no colour allocated to them. One company will have a Yellow lock for Isolations and another company will have a Yellow lock for Boundary’s this leads to confusion for short term contractors.

    When personnel go from site to site and have an induction which includes the colours for locks and tape there is a risk they fail to pay attention as next week they will be going through a similar induction at another site.

    For commissioning areas you tend to have Blue\White Tape or Green\White Tape. I have been on sites where Green\White is a Safe Zone to go to and others where it was the Commissioning area and it is a no go area as testing of equipment is taking place.

    Each State has different Legislation regarding Permits. Western Australian Mining is governed by the Mines Safety Act. Queensland has only recently reviewed and updated the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 on 1 July 2014, it has been a sterling effort for all concerned as previously there was not a great deal of information. Unfortunately there is no mention of locks or tagging. I’d like to see formal regulation around Personal Danger, Equipment Isolation, Testing and Jogging, Commissioning and Boundary Lock and Tags”

    Thanks to Bronwen for her insights into this extremely important aspect of the Electrical Engineering industry and the work we do for our clients. EnerMech are always looking for new talent so please don't hesitate to submit your CV to us if you would like to be considered for a job within the industry here APPLY NOW

    To find out more about our Permit to Work Services and download our latest brochure, click HERE.

Permit to work lock out station