BAM introduces automated permit-to-work system in construction
In early July the BAM contracting company reached the highest point in the construction of the BAVIRO waste-fired power plant for SITA ReEnergy in the southern Dutch city of Roosendaal. The BAM Civiel/ AE&E consortium (previously Von Roll Innova) is the turn-key contractor for the civil engineering and architectural aspects of the project, as well as for equipment installation. BAM Civiel is using an automated permit-to-work system on this project for the first time in the company’s history. iBanx worked together with BAM Civiel to develop and implement this new system. Four gentlemen gathered for an initial evaluation of the automated permit-to-work system. They are Jacco Geerts, KAM coordinator at BAM Civiel BV, Wim Rutjens, Safety Coordinator, Rene Kroone, AE&E Health & Safety Manager, and Paul de Vries, Senior Business Consultant with iBanx HSE.
Factories and construction sites
iBanx has traditionally been working for the processing industry. The development and implementation of this system is a first step for the company into the world of construction. Permits in the building industry work in a totally different way than in the processing industry due to the dynamics of construction. BAM choose to start working with an automated permit-to-work system at the request of its principles and to reduce the administrative burden associated with permits. Geerts: “BAM is a major player in the field. Our position means that we can take on complete projects. We have deliberately opted for a permit-to-work system to enhance workplace safety.” De Vries: “Thanks to our extensive experience in the processing industry, iBanx already had a system structure, but it was a fascinating challenge to develop a new system that is better tuned to the needs of the construction industry.” Rutjens points out the major differences between the two: “When you start a construction project, you’ve got an empty site where you need to dig a hole. Nine months later, though, there’s not even enough room left for a crane. In construction, it is not uncommon to issue seventy permits-to-work for builders who are all doing the same thing in the same place. Furthermore, new buildings and equipment are constantly being added. This is something that you need to keep in mind from a safety point of view. The same applies to commissioning equipment or putting it into service; at these times you also need to deal with chemicals and transferring authority to the operators. These things just don’t happen in a factory.”
One of the most important reasons for using an automated permit-to-work system has to do with reducing the administrative burden. So far the success rate has been 90%. Geerts: “The new system allows us to ‘copy’ permits, which saves us a lot of work. Also, subcontractors can request their own permits, resulting in better permit quality and less hassle. It’s really been a vast improvement. In the past, safety experts would sit around making lists of who was busy where and with what. They can mean so much more to the entire process. This was what prompted me start on this project. The new system gives us the manoeuvrability to deploy our people far more efficiently.” Kroone would like to see a number of adjustments to the system. He appreciates the fact that the system is web-based and that he can log-in from home. “It’s fantastic that I can review the permits from home on days when it’s just too busy at the site.”
Improving permit viability has also met with an 80% success rate. Rutjens: “Permits have changed from paper tigers into a means of communication. People are proud of working on a safe site and they now have a great deal of respect for the permits. Permit automation means we save time, which translates immediately into improved levels of safety. We now really do have the time we need to supervise risky jobs properly.” Geerts: “Workers see that we are out and about on the site more often, which in and of itself prompts them to be more conscientious about permits and to double check whether they are following procedures. This is exactly what we want to achieve: communication on workplace safety.” A behavioural component was also incorporated into the objectives. Geerts: “A training course and supervision were also linked to the objectives, but these have not fully lived up to expectations. We want to shift accountability even further to the building site itself. This remains a goal for the future.”
Geerts: “Safety experts are taking care of on-site tasks where we originally intended to go to the construction manager. I knew all along that we were aiming pretty high, and I’m very pleased that the safety experts are taking up the slack.” Rutjens adds: “Coordination takes place at the plant during the job. As permit coordinators, we approve permits in advance for the construction manager. Once we’ve got our safety-expert cap on at the building site, we can rescind the permits if safety concerns so dictate. The system itself works perfectly, but it’s not the ideal situation for BAM, of course. In the future we want to coordinate proactively all the time, rather than after the fact in certain instances as is currently the case.” We have the new system to thank for the current situation in which safety experts are free to coordinate more. Geerts: “This means that the safety experts are no longer dependent on invitations to meetings etc. to get the information they need.” Rutjens: “Never before have I had this much information about bottlenecks, what’s going on where, how long jobs will take and how many workers are involved. The next step is looking into how we need to process all this information.” Geerts is convinced that workplace safety has already taken a step in the right direction. “If we continue to use this system, then we are sure to achieve even better results.”
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