Why Manufacturers Should Implement a Control of Work (CoW) System
Blog | April 16th, 2024

Why Manufacturers Should Implement a Control of Work (CoW) System

Workplace safety is critical for every organization today, not just because it is a regulatory requirement, but also because the organization's reputation, employee engagement, and customer satisfaction are closely tied to it. Therefore, enterprises ensure workplace safety by implementing the Control of Work (CoW) system, a management tool that collaborates with other management safety systems to reduce accidents or injuries to the workers, prevent damage to equipment, and ensure sustainable practices to protect the environment, and the community it operates in.

ISO 45001 Compliance ISO 45001 Compliance

CoW requires risk identification and the implementation of administrative controls to improve workplace safety and health. Some of its goals include:

  • Lowering worker exposure to risks and potential harm
  • To be compliant with applicable regulations such as OSHA, EMA, HSE, etc.
  • To ensure the consistent implementation of safety systems across functions/locations
  • To ensure the safety of operations and the implementation of risk control measures
  • To use a risk-based, proactive approach to safety management

The Key Ingredients of a Control of Work (CoW) System

An effective Control of Work (CoW) system requires visibility and traceability of operations to know that each and every task is being performed the right way by trained and authorized personnel. Often, temporary workers or new recruits may not be aware of the hazards specific to the organization, even if they have experience in their areas of work. This can lead to the triggering of near-misses or full-blown events that can cause damage to the workers and/or the assets.

Likewise, when unauthorized individuals access hazardous areas, they not only jeopardize their own safety and that of their colleagues but also threaten the organization's infrastructure and assets. This risk is compounded by their lack of awareness and understanding of the associated dangers and necessary risk management strategies.

A robust CoW must include the following components/solutions:

#1 - Permit to Work (PTW): Permit to Work is an important component of CoW - only workers with permits can perform high-risk tasks such as Hot Work, Cold Work, Working at Heights, Working with Chemicals, etc. The Permit to Work authorization process must verify whether the personnel accessing the hazardous site or objects have the following:

  • Permission to perform a high-risk task
  • The skills needed to handle the task
  • Sufficient training to know what to do in case of an emergency
  • Understand and adhere to hazard controls to perform jobs safely

This is critical to regulatory compliance, ensuring safety performance, minimizing the cost of safety, and improving worker productivity.

#2 - Data-Driven Safety: The second ingredient of Control of Work is data access. Visibility of operations across the shop floor and across different sites is very important to identify risks and create focused safety work plans. To create customized safety work plans, safety managers and business leaders need to know:

  • The different operations across different sites
  • The hazards in each of these locations
  • The risk level of each of the hazards is based on how often they occur and how they impact the safety of the workplace
  • Rank each of the hazards and prioritize resource allocation to highly critical hazards in that location for better outcomes
  • Implement appropriate control measures to address
  • Monitor and track the effectiveness of the measures in achieving the desired outcomes.
  • Mid-course correction in case of any lags

#3 - Robust Communication Mechanisms: It is important to inform the workers about the potential hazards related to their tasks, common safety risks on site, and standard operating procedures and policies. Any time there is an update or revision in these aspects of risk management, it must also be communicated to the personnel immediately so that they can become aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions.

Temporary workers must also be informed about the risks and controls every time they are hired or contracted to handle a task, especially high-hazard ones.

Businesses must also enable workers to communicate any new hazards they discover in the course of their work or noncompliance to internal or external regulations and standards without fear of retribution.

#4 - Ongoing Training: A critical aspect of control of work is performing a gap analysis to identify if skills or resources are lacking to deal with a hazardous task and periodically providing training to equip employees with the required skills. This ensures that the business has easy access to trained workers to perform certain tasks. Periodic training and certification will ensure greater awareness of the risks and the need for compliance.

Training can be customized to meet each employee's unique needs and delivered online or offline by internal or external sources. Managers can monitor and ensure the training is being taken and monitor the progress to assess effectiveness and promote continuous improvement.

Control of Work (CoW) requires the definition and documentation of work procedures, quality policy, and the standards it follows for all its operations. This covers a wide range of operations involving:

  • Hot work
  • Cold work
  • Electrical work
  • Mechanical service & maintenance
  • Utilities
  • Excavation/trenching
  • Hazardous material handling/disposal/remediation
  • Scaffolding
  • Confined space entry
  • Work at heights
  • Heavy equipment operation

Automating Control of Work (CoW) for Greater Effectiveness

Control of Work requires a unified view of enterprise-wide data that can be analyzed to identify risks, rank them, and prioritize them to ensure high risks are addressed first. As the risks may be different for different sites – site-level and process-level information becomes critical for the optimal allocation of resources.

Businesses also need a unified platform for centralized communication, document management, and risk tracking. This ensures that all stakeholders are up-to-date on the latest information that can affect their area of work. It also helps with version control, greater clarity, and collaboration through the exchange of information, ideas, and best practices.

A centralized repository also provides the management with quick information on the expertise level of their employees and contractors so that they can deploy the most eligible and effective resources to handle high-risk tasks. Permit-to-Work information can also be shared in the centralized repository, allowing all decision-makers to know who has been authorized to perform the task, why, and by when.

Any worker can use tools to record observations, near misses, and incidents that improve risk identification, assessment, and mitigation. When workers see their safety observations being acted on, they become more confident about the system and the organization, which results in building a better safety culture. 

Periodic inspections and audits can be automated, ensuring they are not missed. The auditors and inspectors can record their observations and share them online for the management to review and take quick action as required. This helps with proactive control of safety in the workplace and improved compliance.

A cloud-based, AI-infused solution such as SafetyQuest from ComplianceQuest is scalable and helps businesses with all their safety needs. It streamlines and automates the end-to-end Control of Work system to increase safety, quality, and productivity.

To know more, request a demo: https://www.compliancequest.com/online-demo/

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