The construction industry has moved on a lot over the past few decades. Advancements in machinery, materials, and health and safety procedures have made building sites much more productive, and much more environmentally friendly. In particular the introduction of permit-to-work systems have been of immeasurable value not only in construction but in all heavy industries where worker safety is a major concern. The basic principle of permit-to-work schemes is to ensure a central governing authority takes responsibility for all the various tasks which are being carried out within a particular area. With projects in construction, engineering, shipping, and mining becoming ever more complex there is a requirement to micro-manage the many activities which may be independent of one another yet share the same workspace.
Historical tragedies such as the Piper Alpha fire or Halliburton oil rig disaster have increased the need to streamline working practices in any environment where employees are compelled to use heavy machinery or work in hostile conditions. Permit-to-work systems help to ensure various conflicting tasks do not become hazardous to one another by introducing a schedule which must be adhered to. An employee must request a permit to work within an area if the task is deemed potentially hazardous. For example, in most industries any electrical work is considered a risk, and a suitable permit must be applied for. This will ensure that no other conflicting tasks, such as washing or jet cleaning, are allowed in the area until the electrical work is completed.
Permit-to-work systems have proved to be very effective in reducing accidents at work. Most countries now have legislation in place to prosecute companies who do not follow a detailed hazard prevention scheme.
Advances in Equipment
One of the most useful advances in equipment technology for the construction industry has been in the use of underground location machinery. The use of radio frequency and ground penetrating radar (GPR) have not only reduced the amount of time it takes to scan and plot subterranean area, but it has helped enormously in locating faults and potential hazards in structures like bridges, elevated roadways and railway supports. Traditionally the task of searching for faults in solid surfaces like concrete or brick had been very time consuming. Now large tracts of concrete can be scanned in a fraction of the time, with comprehensive images allowing for detailed analysis of once hidden areas. This has been great for building costs, but he true value has been in the safety benefits it provides.
In the country today there are several specialist companies like Sydney based Australian Locating Services which can provide professional scanning services. Most reputable construction companies use this type of service before embarking on any large building project. The potential saving can be substantial. If a project has not been thoroughly tested before construction begins a company may encounter hazards which delay completion. This can become an unwelcome burden on a work budget. It can be of unquantifiable value to discover a fault before work begins.