A routine work process in a gold room is to clean the electrowinning cells. Doing this task requires the isolation of the electrical supply to the cells as well as isolating the supply of the gold laden solution; 5 isolation points in total. This activity is repeated after each electrowinning cycle which is usually daily.
We were recently working on a site where this isolation activity was managed under the group isolation process detailed in the site energy control and isolation procedure requiring the use of an isolation procedure and the issuing of a Permit to Work (PTW). The value added by following the rigorous PTW process was challenged as the site had provision in their current procedures to manage routine tasks on an individual basis by following a standardised procedure. We see this often where the time has not been taken to identify the routine tasks that can be managed in a much less time-consuming manner.
A formal review of the activity was undertaken and determined the task can be managed, without compromising safety, through the development of a standard work procedure (SWP) that included the steps associated with isolating the equipment.
By adopting this approach, the work is performed in a safe manner and the time to develop permit documentation is eliminated. The SWP also becomes the standard used to train new gold room personnel.
There seems to be a reluctance these days of using the processes that have been developed to manage routine tasks safely and efficiently (and to reduce frustration) and instead to manage every task through a rigorous formal written system. To me this is one of the biggest misunderstood areas of Permit to Work systems and often an area where it astoundingly easy to make big system improvements in a very short period of time.