Safety, facilities and engineering executives often struggle to create a strong business case for moving from paper to electronic. This can be for a number of reasons both internal and external, but one thing we can be sure of is that everyone that has made the switch has benefited in multiple ways.

Before we explore the key benefits, we will briefly touch on some of the problems that companies have overcome by moving away from paper.

  • When we talk about permit to work and bringing contractors on-site, the paperwork that is involved in this process is time consuming, can be heavy on resources and can often be inefficient.
  • Paper can be restrictive when it comes to site and job visibility as well as contributing to ineffective communication between departments. This is especially relevant when it comes to awareness around potentially hazardous work activity happening on-site.
  • Ensuring compliance of contractors performing work is very difficult to do with paper as there are so many inefficient and hidden processes which make it difficult to ensure that all procedures are followed. Obvious mistakes before or during filling out the high-level permit are frequently occurring, for example: we can write someone’s first and last name on the permit however we are not certain that this worker is fully compliant and trained, furthermore the existing process with paper to give us the confidence that the workers are compliant is typically stored in a separate system with no visibility or linkage to the permit issuer.
  • Paper-based systems often fall down when it comes to key audit activities. Firstly, the responsible person has no certainty that all safety and site rules have been followed. Secondly, there is no real time knowledge of on the ground compliance. Permits are often illegible and difficult to find due to single location, poor storage, inadequate filing systems and out of date record-keeping activities.

Once you have made the decision to move to an electronic permit to work or contractor management system, the benefits become clear. For the purposes of this blog, we will just focus on some of the more important benefits which we have seen customers avail of over the past 10 years.

Save Time and Money

The key driver for companies moving to an electronic system is to increase compliance levels and decrease operational risk. However, where finance is involved and invariably, they are and a business case must be made, the key message that resonates is time, resources and cost savings. There is often a common misconception that a paper-based permit to work system is free of charge, that there’s no cost associated with paper. From research we have found that across key functions involved in managing contractor work activity, an electronic contractor compliance and management process will save up to 1.3 resources per week or the equivalent to €41,000 per annum. It’s important to say at this stage that it’s not that a company can just cut 1.3 resources or people. Essentially, the way these results were gathered was through analysing the different people that were involved in the different stages of the contactor management and permit to work processes. A lot of the time it would have been security or reception teams that are doing induction programmes for contractors when they come on site, so we looked at the average salaries of these job functions. You often see within larger sites that EHS will have a database administrator attached to them and maybe have someone within the EHS function that is managing all the contractor qualifications, the databases, the records etc.  We also looked at the time savings before and after implementation, which were reduced by up to 90% in some cases. On top of that you have the physical costs, the printing of the permits, the storage, some companies are using storage keeping companies for the storage of permits because paper permits must be kept for a long time.

Compliance

Once an electronic permit to work system has been deployed you have absolute certainty that when a worker arrives on-site that they are 100% compliant to perform work and that their insurance and induction trainings are up to date. Those workers can only be electronically selected due to the fact that their company is in date with policies and procedures and individual workers are only available for selection based on key site mandatory criteria. This one feature alone will remove the work of unqualified workers performing work guaranteeing compliance of a permit. That is a critical requirement within large companies to meet the high standards that are set within their site SOP’s and policies. Visitors onsite become quickly aware of company safety standards and the level of compliance.

Audit

Once an audit is scheduled there is no longer the level of worry is reduced as you have real-time access to existing contractor and permitting data. This data is immediately retrievable from the permit report feature from any location at any time. Sites that quickly pass audits due to the efficient provision of documents to the auditor. When a site passes an audit quickly, they become viewed very positively across the wider organisation.

Visualisation

Using SafePermit by OneLook Systems as an example, feedback from the day to day users of the system is that the visualisation tool is the standout benefit. They get a real-time view as to where work is taking place, where permits are required and where the status of the permits are opened, closed or on-going. Any conflicting work is identified which assists with risk management. Once companies move to an electronic solution, we often hear how happy and confident and less worried they are because they have the feeling that they’re compliant and in control of their safety process.

Conclusion

In conclusion it is important to know that the rationale for moving from paper-based systems to an electronic permit to work system is proven by hundreds and thousands of companies globally who have already made the switch, and never gone back to paper. Implementing an electronic solution is a long-term investment saving you time and money with up to 1.3 resources or the equivalent to €41,000 per annum, with the possibility of more savings as the years go on.

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