Permits in the construction industry are usually associated with high-risk jobs that, by their nature, have the potential to cause harm—working at heights (learn about Safety Around Leading Edges), entering exclusion zones, performing excavations (keep these safety tips in mind when you Plan Your Excavations), and hot works, just to name a few (learn the Top 6 Construction Hazards and Considerations).
To be sure, on their own, permits won’t provide a safe working environment, but as part of a broader safety program, it’s an additional step to ensure that safe work practices are in place before anyone starts doing high-risk tasks.
Permit Management Complexity
When it comes to permit management, ensuring that all controls are in place and followed adequately is challenging at the best of times. Chances are you need to deal with multiple live permits at the same time. They can, moreover, be spread across the entire footprint of the job site and, further complicating things, different tasks might have different sets of permit authorizers and permit holders.
This complexity makes it difficult to know the status of active permits on-site in real time. It also provides challenges when trying to put additional focus on high-risk areas where permits are live.Traditionally, permit management has been implemented using a variety of steps depending on the companies’ processes. These steps can include:
- Printing paper permits
- Printing a duplicate
- Keeping the original copy in a permit folder in the site office
- Marking the permit to show it's a duplicate
- Updating the permit board to reflect the permits that are live
- Removing permits once they're no longer active
- Ripping up the printed copy that's in the field once the permit is complete
- Updating the copy in the folder to reflect that it's no longer in circulation
Not only are all of these steps time-consuming (see 5 Reasons to Go Paperless with Your Workplace Health and Safety) but these analog permit management methods rely heavily on human factors—on the attention and judgment of those who are tasked with performing these tasks. Given the manual processes, there are risks of human error, especially when these steps become so repetitive that it’s difficult to stay focused on every part of the task.
Inaccurate permits aren’t just a bureaucratic headache. In a construction zone, they put people at risk. That’s why efficient and accurate permit management is of absolute importance.
The Digital Solution
The risks associated with analog permit management always led me to think that there had to be an easier, more effective way to ensure the safety of everyone working on a construction job site (for a discussion of related topics, see Risk Mitigation Using Mobile Technology). And then I joined HammerTech.
One of the things that endeared me the most to the HammerTech software platform is that it did so much of the permit management tasks for me, by default.
The software creates a permit register that is accessible anywhere by any user (follow this link for a video demonstration). It functions as a digital permits board that, unlike its more traditional counterpart, is updated in real time and can be accessed from anywhere using an app on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
The process is simple: subcontractors can conveniently apply for a permit using the app, and the site managers can review, approve, modify, or reject the permit from any location.
The digital permit board updates automatically, which allows site managers to address any issue as soon as it arises. But those issues are less likely to occur in the first place, since exclusion zones are clearly marked on the app’s site map, scheduling is managed digitally, and the chances for human error in filing and managing the permits is practically eliminated.
Moreover, all of the issues that arise from paper-based permit management becomes a thing of the past. There’s no danger of the permits blowing away in the field, misplacing or losing them, or forgetting to bring them to the field and having to return to the office to retrieve them. As long as you have access to a laptop or smartphone, you will have the complete permit information for the entire job site at your fingertips.
When it comes to controlling and managing permits, the industry is moving in the direction of cloud-based, smart technology. We can all look forward to safer and more efficient work sites as a result.
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