Energized Work Permits

By Jeff MacKinnon, P.Eng.,PE

Let's talk about energized work permits. I've seen some extremely long and detailed forms outlining what needs to be in the energized work permit that were up to 6 pages. To make things worse, they duplicate a lot of the information that would be in the work order (WO) and job specific risk analysis for any task.

The energized work permit (EWP) supplements these documents, but doesn't replace them.

What is an Energized Work Permit

From CSA Z462-18

Before you start designing your energized work permit, make sure you have a job safety analysis form, a documented tail gate meeting; and a detailed work order system. That way, the energized work permit will be adding to these documents without adding extra paper to the process. The EWP can reference the WO number and the job safety analysis number. Then add in the specific electrical task risk analysis, list the other checklists that will be used to minimize the risk to the worker, and get signatures from the person issuing the WO, the person asking for the energized work, and finally someone on the safety committee.

This means that the form shouldn't be more than a single page, and when it is used it is part of a larger process that has a proper chain of documentation. Every document in the chain should be as long as necessary but never longer. And the time they are used should be immediately clear. The way that I suggest to people is that there be a checkbox on the WO input form, or the job safety analysis that asks, will this work include the worker doing work while exposed to energized parts? If so, then the EWP is triggered. This would also apply to other checklists/permits. Does the equipment need to be electrically isolated? If so, that will trigger the Lock-Out-Tag-Out procedure.

By doing it this way a very simply workflow can be produced and then treated like an "infographic" and placed everywhere around the workplace. If someone asks if a EWP is needed, you cna walk them through the decision tree once and then they can refer back the next time. The more the decision tree is used and as edge cases discovered, the tree can be updated as per the continous improvement process.


Signatures are critical

Signatures add gravity tot he decisions being made, the requester may think twice about having to approve the work plan and rather than expose the worker to the hazards agree to scheduling a shutdown so the work can be completed de-energized. The requester isn't always an electrical person, so having them review and sign on the dotted line gives them incentive and an opportunity to find non-electrical ways to lower the risk of the work.

This may be by switching piping to the secondary system allowing the main system to be isolated. Before the EWP this option may have been seen as too difficult or costly, making it easier to do the work energized.

I'm not implying that the requester was negligent, but they may have never been trained in that area and would be completely unaware of the hazards of doing energized work. It would be a similar case if an electrican requested a mechanic to do work under a piece of equipment held by hydraluics but refusing to let them place blocking.

A good starting point

There are a lot of great EWP drafts online, and we are putting one together for you too, but before you just grab the longest one that seems to have all the fields you need, re-read this email. Make sure that you aren't making the process harder than it needs to be. Make the process of using an EWP simple and this will encourage everyone to go through the risk analysis process and document everything they do.

Without documentaiton you can't improve the process, you can't make your work place safer in a predicable and repeatable fashion.

My ask

I really would like to know what you think about this electrical safety newsletter. Are you getting value, or is it something that you just leave? Do you prefer longer ones like this, or short and sweet?

Finally, don't use an energized work permit as a reason to do energized work. Don't do energized work when you can avoid it.