How Many Types Of Work Permit Are There?

General Safety By Matthew Coombes

What is a permit to work?

A permit to work is part of a ‘safe system of work’. Typically, they are physical, printed documents that are signed by multiple senior members of staff. The document often includes considerations, actions, and a checklist to be completed before any work takes place. This may include things like checking equipment, making sure the task has been risk assessed, and arrangements for making the area safe after the work has been completed. Once everything has been checked, completed and signed, a permit will be issued to a specific, named individual. The document then allows the person issued the permit to undertake high risk work.

Why use a permit to work?

A permit to work is required when a task is:

  • high-risk
  • in a high-risk environment
  • Increasing the level of risk by being carried out

As part of the safe system of work, a permit will need to be gained, filled in, signed (normally by multiple managers) and submitted for approval. Only once the permit has been approved, work can begin.

This is a way of standardising high-risk work to ensure that it is properly planned, carried out, and most importantly to avoid human error. By ensuring that high risk work goes through multiple managers, you are providing a reasonable opportunity for those authorising and carrying out the work to identify problems.

Confined Spaces Work Permit

Even with appropriate confined space training, entering a confined space can be a very dangerous and complex procedure, and before any work takes place, everything needs to be prepared properly.

Any confined space has a significant risk of asphyxiation, and once a person is rendered unconscious, they are unable to save themselves. However, would-be rescuers often end up encountering the same hazard and also become unconscious.

It’s because of this that a permit to work will be used to ensure that the work isn’t taking place before the environment is as safe as it can be, that there is a rescue plan ready for emergencies and to ensure that before any work takes place, everyone is fully equipped and prepared. This may mean setting up equipment to provide a supply of oxygen, locking off attached equipment and services to the space, or checking for toxic gas, fumes or vapour.

Hot Works Work Permit

A hot works permit is a permit to conduct work that will create heat. There are many common types of work that cause heat, such as welding, grinding cutting and even some lighting creates heat. A hot works permit ensures proper fire safety and that no heat is brought into a high-risk environment without proper control measures in place to ensure that there isn’t a fire, explosion or other unwanted event.

Cold Works Permit

A cold works permit is not just the opposite of a hot works permit.
Cold works refers to any higher risk or potentially hazardous work which is not covered by the other types of work permit. Such as:

  • Using strong cleaning chemicals
  • Using solvents
  • Painting activities
  • Use of resins
  • Heavy lifting
  • The handling of hazardous substances such as asbestos

Essentially, a cold works permit covers any miscellaneous work that requires specific controls due to increased risk, but that doesn’t have its own specific permit type.

Working at height permit


A fall from any level can result in broken bones, sprains and if you hit your head, you may become seriously injured or even die. The higher up you go, the harder you will hit the ground.

Following a safe system of work to carry out working at height will include assessing the risks involved, providing suitable equipment and following a set procedure.

For example, you may need scaffolding to repair a roof. A working at height permit would include ensuring that the scaffolding is set up correctly, that the area below is not in use, or is properly cordoned off, that the tower is the right height for the work and will address any other risks identified before any work takes place.

Electrical Isolation Permit

Sometimes when work is being undertaken to fix, maintain, service or inspect equipment, any services attached to that equipment must be turned off.

An electrical isolation permit is used to ensure that before people enter or interact with the working area, all electrical services have been isolated. This may be because the electrical current could directly come into contact with a person, electrocuting them, or even to ensure that there is absolutely no way that equipment can become activated. This is often the case when entering industrial equipment such as a mixer.

Excavation Permit

Excavating land is a high-risk activity because of the impact that it can have not only on those working in the excavation pit, but also on the surrounding area. An excavation permit will consider all aspects of the work due to take place and ensure that services are not struck, people can’t fall into the excavation, that it’s safe to enter, and that by excavating the area it will not cause a surrounding collapse.

Chemical Work Permit

Chemicals that are harmful to work with, or that may give off toxic or corrosive vapours and gas need to be heavily considered prior to use and often follow standardised processes. Chemical engineers typically work in controlled environments such as chemical plants or laboratories to ensure that everything is safe before chemicals are used.


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