We probably all know a piece of road that’s notorious for having some nasty hazards. Whether that’s the place the roos always cross, the blind crest or corner, the wicked pothole, the intersection where people usually run the lights, or the place where kids just leap out from behind a bus.

For some people, those not familiar with the risk, it can be a real problem. But the locals are all over it, knowing the exact nature of the problem and what they are going to do when they get there.

Section 3.2 of the WPTW Handbook talks about developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to guide you through how to do a specific task. Risk is all about uncertainty. If we know about a problem ahead of time we can put controls in place to manage it – reducing the uncertainty.

The value of the WPTW process is that it makes you stop and think about how a job should be done, and what problems you are going to have during the work. But if the job is done often enough by the same people – a bit like the drive into town – the problems become obvious and the way to control them gets discussed and agreed over time.

The Handbook says that ‘Permit-related documentation can support the development and establishment of new SOPs. Draft versions of SOPs may be used in conjunction with a permit to give an opportunity to develop, trial, review and improve the SOPs before seeking final approval’. The SOP then represents the best way to do that job, meaning that a Permit may not be required if the WPA decides the SOP provides enough information to do the whole job safely.

Obviously, some jobs will always require a Permit, like Confined Space Entry or Explosive/Radioactive work, etc. but the goal of the WPTW System is to make sure the work is controlled and there aren’t any ‘surprises’ along the road.

Review of SOPs

For an SOP to be effective it needs to be reviewed before the work starts so everyone is on the same track. This allows the problems to be discussed and the control measures agreed. Even if work is being done without a Permit that conversation still needs to happen. Work conditions can change and some control measures might be less effective under different conditions.

The other benefit of reviewing SOPs is that they can be improved over time if a Work Party sees a better or safer way of doing the job. Those improvements should be documented at the end of the job and discussed with the WPA.

Wellsite Permit to Work isn’t about having to fill in a Form for everything you do on site, any more than you need that annoying voice on your SatNav, every time you drive into town, telling you how far it is to the next intersection or which exit you need on the roundabout. But it is a useful tool for mapping out the journey and making sure you know where all of the problems are likely to happen.

More information

For more information about the use of SOPs to improve efficiency on site, contact us on 1800 078 939 or email admin@wellsite.org.au