Author: Prometheus Group
CATEGORY: Permitting & Safety
August 5, 2021

How Integrated GIS Enhances the Permitting Process

Author: Prometheus Group
CATEGORY: Permitting & Safety
August 5, 2021

How Integrated GIS Enhances the Permitting Process

What is the single most important component of an integrated safe system of work? Some people might say it’s ensuring a rigorous and thorough permit to work process is in place. Others believe that it is the training, skill, and experience of the workers that keep them safe. Both of those answers are essential for safe work but still miss the mark. The most important part of safe work is knowing that the hazard exists! You cannot possibly take all the right steps to deal with hazards that you don’t know about.  

It may be impossible to ever have completely perfect knowledge, but a geographic information system (GIS) integrated with your safety and electronic permit to work process moves your organization closer to that state. In essence, GIS is a system that captures and organizes geographic and location-based data. This has wide-ranging applications in maintenance, with an article by ESRI Canada noting that GIS is the foundation of modern enterprise asset management.  

GIS integration with your maintenance and asset management software increases your insight into patterns, relationships, and connections. Regarding safety and permitting, GIS increases flexibility, provides better tracking and distribution of important safety information, and enables better allocation of resources and technician time.

Prometheus Permitting & Safety utilizes advanced GIS integration through a partnership with Esri, well-known leaders in the GIS software space.  

GIS Integration: It’s All About Location

Advanced GIS integration offers benefits specific to permitting and safety. For example, it can provide maintenance technicians with a precise map showing all the nearby hazards. This is not just limited to what they’re working on but can be configured to show other hazards in their working environment. Obviously, most work requires that a particular machine be locked out. However, it can also be important to know if nearby machines are still energized, even when they’re not in operation. Advanced GIS integration with an electronic permitting and safety system gives you this ability.  

Remember, the first step in mitigating a hazard is knowing that it exists. There are cases where the danger is not so much from equipment, but from other workers. A common example of this occurs in multi-level facilities with catwalks or other overhead access points. A team working on the lower level must be made aware of the team working on the level above them and vice versa.  

Advanced GIS integration informs both teams of the work going on around them. This allows them to take steps to mitigate any hazards caused by this situation. The team on the lower level can make sure they’re wearing hard hats, while the team on the upper level can put down drop sheets to ensure any falling tools or components don’t land on the team working below.  

Safety Compliance: Uncovering Relationships and Causative Links

Advanced GIS integration allows you to uncover causative links between safety incidents, even when those links are not obvious to the naked eye. Naturally, it’s better to prevent such incidents in the first place but determining how seemingly separate incidents are connected can be used to ensure similar incidents don’t take place again.  

Most equipment information has a geographical component. Advanced GIS integration allows you uncover the geographic relationships between hazards, equipment, and the work being done. This gives you a more complete picture of safety compliance. You can also use geographic information to analyze historic patterns and see how they fit into your understanding of current hazards.  

The advanced GIS integration included in Prometheus Permitting & Safety provides you with the ability to identify hazards and add them to a database that is always accessible when creating or requesting permits. In addition, GIS integration allows you to connect responsibilities directly to the equipment in question, ensuring that an electronic “paper trail” is always present.  

We shouldn’t ignore the collaboration piece. All Prometheus Group solutions provide easy ways for all stakeholders to collaborate and share necessary information, but advanced GIS integration takes this to the next level. Insights can be easily pushed out to all affected personnel, in real time, and in the form of an easy-to-understand map.  

You likely already have paper maps that show much of the same information. However, they cannot show it in anything like the detail available in a GIS-enabled electronic map. There is also absolutely no way to know if the paper map you’re working from is out of date.  

Preventing Safety Incidents Starts with Accessible Data

It’s easy to see how incomplete information can cause a catastrophic safety incident. Often, these incidents are entirely preventable.  

For example, say a work order is issued requesting that a faulty cable be disconnected from its power box and replaced. The technician reviews the order, which notes that the cable has already been de-energized and looks on the paper map to determine precisely where the cable is located. Once on site, the technician hooks up a voltmeter and discovers that the cable is still energized!  

What went wrong? Plant engineers redesigned that part of the line a few months back. The cable referred to on the work order is now more than 10 meters away, hooked up to an entirely different machine. The map was never updated, and so it sent the technician to the wrong place.  

An incident was averted in this case, but working time was still wasted on travelling to the wrong location. Now the technician must confer with the supervisor or the planner/scheduler and figure out just where that darn cable has gotten to!

It’s also worth noting that a serious incident was averted only because the technician followed the correct procedures. Safety is a multi-step process, and an integrated safe system of work must consider that there will be times that technicians do not follow the correct procedures. You should not excuse this behavior, but you should expect it and design your safe systems of work accordingly.  

This situation would have been avoided if the organization used a permitting and safety system with advanced GIS integration. The map would be a multi-layered electronic document that is constantly kept up to date, as well as providing context and key information that no paper map can possibly offer.  

An integrated safe system of work depends on having multiple, overlapping safety systems in place, including advanced GIS built into the solution. For more on how Prometheus Permitting & Safety accomplishes this, please click here.  

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