How technology can support your Control of Work process

How technology can support your Control of Work process

Published June 14, 2024

3 minute read

It’s a quiet Thursday afternoon and Peter, along with some key stakeholders, are doing the annual assessment of their manufacturing company’s Control of Work process. With so many moving parts, it’s important that time is taken to make sure all elements are streamlined for optimum effectiveness and efficiency.  

A key factor that Peter and his team discover during their assessment is that a paper and Excel-based approach has slowed down certain elements within this process. Are you facing the same issue or wondering how you can better streamline your approach to Control of Work? Read on as we delve into: 

  • What is control of work 
  • The drawbacks of manual processes 
  • How technology can simplify these processes  

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What is Control of Work

Before we dive in, let’s start with the basics: what is Control of Work? Think of it as the doorway to a safe working environment. This is done by addressing the following four elements: 

  • Risk management: This aspect is all about how you identify, control, and mitigate risks on site. External contractors or employees who are conducting high-risk work must submit risk assessments, such as their Point of Work Risk Assessment (POWRA), for example.  
  • Permit to Work: Permits are required for workers that conduct high-risk work to ensure all measures have been taken for a safe process. This entails recording where the work will be done, by whom, and when, as well as a risk assessment provided by the contractor highlighting hazards related to this type of work. Once everything is reviewed and all controls are set, the permit is granted and the work can begin.   
  • Isolations management: Isolations management entails making sure all equipment and heavy machinery is isolated and shut down, through lockout/tagout procedures. If not, hazardous forms of energy could be released, harming your workforce.  
  • Competency management: Finally, competency management is a process which ensures the workers you have on site are able to competently complete their tasks safely. This includes making sure they’ve completed all the necessary training, asking for their incident rates, and reviewing references from previous employers.  

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The drawbacks of manual processes

Now that you know the basics of what Control of Work is, let’s get back to Peter and his team’s assessment. As mentioned earlier, they realised that manual processes were holding them back and slowing them down. Let’s take a closer look at how. 

Manually filling out risk assessments proved to be quite burdensome for employees, as they had several to fill out, which took a great deal of time. These then had to be approved by several people in the organisation, which also caused a delay. Plus, once everything was approved, it had to be manually entered into an Excel spreadsheet, making it susceptible to human error. Carrying out this process with several internal employees and contractors was quite hard to manage.  

Maintaining all permits for workers was also very challenging using Excel spreadsheets. Not only does it provide no transparency into the status of each one, but it also creates a huge administrative burden on the team when it comes to issuing and approving permits. The same goes for competency management. It’s the organisation’s responsibility to hire licensed contractors and stay up to date with all their credentials. Using paper and spreadsheets to keep track of all contractor and worker training, qualifications, upcoming expiry dates, and more was quite difficult to stay on top of using manual processes. Imagine having to do this for hundreds of workers on multiple sites!  

Finally, keeping track of lockout tagout procedures for several machines and heavy equipment on multiple sites was hard to do using paper. This provided little transparency into each machine's status and a lack of accessibility of this information to key stakeholders. It reminded one of Peter’s team members of an article he’d read about a worker in Chicago who lost his fingertip when reassembling a pump, because he wasn’t properly trained on lockout tagout procedures. The company suffered several violations and was cited to pay $298,010 in fines.  

How technology can simplify these processes

Needless to say, a manual approach has several drawbacks, but there is a solution! Technology can truly help you simplify your control of work processes. Wondering how? We’ve outlined the areas a digital solution can help below: 

Risk assessments: Digitising all task-based risk assessments, point of work risk assessments, etc. makes it easier for contractors and employees to complete and submit their assessments. It also helps centralise all documents in one system so you can easily find the one you’re looking for in a few clicks.  

Permit to Work: Digitally create permits within the software, giving you the flexibility to set notifications for revisions and expiry dates to ensure compliance. This allows for a smoother approval process, as everything is tracked in the software, and better communication with key stakeholders and team members. 

Contractor Management: Manage all contractor information within one platform, with the ability to build risk profiles for every external member, analyse data, and more. Software allows contractors to also directly complete all their risk assessments and observations within this system, allowing you to instantly receive all documentation without delay.  

Training management: Software makes training and competency management easy, as you can create learning profiles for all employees and contractors, where you can instantly see what training they have completed and any gaps that may be present. This also makes it easy to stay on top of any upcoming deadlines or certification expiration dates.  

And that’s just the beginning! Find out more about how you can streamline procedures related to Control of Work with our guide, Overcoming Control of Work Challenges: Your Guide to Streamline Success 

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Author Dina Adlouni

Dina is a Content Marketing Manager at EcoOnline who has been writing about health and safety, ESG and sustainability, as well as chemical safety for the past four years. She regularly collaborates with internal subject matter experts to create relevant and insightful content.

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