Numerous OSHA standards and documents use the term “HSE competent person.” A competent individual has knowledge of applicable standards, is able to identify workplace hazards related to the particular operation, and has the authority to correct them and stop work if necessary. The competent individual must meet any additional specific requirements that are added to some standards. Competence is demonstrated rather than accredited.
- Must be able to both identify and mitigate risks.
- Do not necessarily need a recognized degree, certificate, or a great deal of experience.
However, competent individuals do not completely forego formal training simply because they do not possess a degree or certification. Employers can easily assign employees to a position through competent person training classes, and individuals working in construction or the general industry might want to think about taking classes in the following areas:
- Fall protection
- Confined spaces
Training classes can be held in a variety of locations and require one to two days of in-person training. Completing training classes alone does not guarantee competent person status. Employees must be given the authority to take corrective action by their employers before they can be deemed competent. A person who enrolls in the competent person classes does not have this authority; rather, they only have the knowledge necessary to be a competent person.
Even if a person is given the authority to fix workplace dangers, they are not qualified to actually come up with solutions. Take for instance, fall protection. A competent individual realizes that a representative not tying off to a help is a security danger and has the position to stop work until the individual does as such. However, they are unable to install the lifelines that workers must attach to because this can only be done by a qualified individual.
HSE Competent Person
What does the Health and Safety Executive mean when they refer to individuals involved in health and safety as “competent person”?
A competent person, according to the HSE, is one with sufficient training, experience, or knowledge, among other qualities, to provide you with appropriate assistance. The level of expertise required will be determined by the specific assistance you require and the complexity of the situation.
Prior to seeking assistance from outside sources, you should prioritize those within your own organization who possess the necessary level of competence which may include the employer. You must promptly consult representatives of health and safety regarding the arrangements for competent assistance.
In order to fulfill the requirements of health and safety law, you must seek assistance from a competent individual.
Why Do You Need a Competent Person in Health and Safety?
It is required by law for your workplace to have competent individuals. “Every employer shall… appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions and by Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997,” states the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1999.
This is true for all businesses, regardless of size or industry. You must appoint at least one individual to take on this role, regardless of whether you have one employee or 10,000, whether you run a low-risk office-based business or a high-risk manufacturing company.
Competent person versus Qualified person
Some HSE and international regulatory standards also recognize the designation of “qualified person.” Experts are quick to point out that while there are some similarities between the two, there are also significant differences.
A qualified individual must possess a recognized qualification, such as a degree, certificate, or other type of credential, in order to be competent. A competent individual should be able to identify hazards in their immediate environment and have the authority to mitigate them. They might also have a lot of experience and the ability to solve problems that come up, like having the right interpersonal skills or technical knowledge for a particular problem in the workplace.
For instance, a competent worker in a trenching operation must be able to identify and resolve the operation’s hazards. However, a qualified individual has the expertise to design the trench’s protective system.
It is possible for a single person to be qualified and competent at the same time, but this may not be the case in every circumstance. In the end, a competent individual may not be qualified due to the different levels of knowledge and training required, but they must nonetheless demonstrate that they are competent in the position that has been assigned to them.
While OSHA provides a definition for a competent person, there are no official standards for achieving the title. Failure to appoint a competent person or persons can result in a prosecution for breaching the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This can, in turn, result in intervention by your regulatory authority, a fine, or, in extreme cases, termination.
However, to become a competent person, you must be able to put what you’ve learned into practice and be able to adjust to new environments based on your daily activities and experience. Understanding how training interacts with relevant workplace activities is essential because competence relies heavily on training. In point of fact, some individuals may be so knowledgeable about a job due to the amount of time they have spent performing it that they do not require any formal training because their experience is sufficient.
Those who fail to meet the legal requirement to appoint a competent individual face consequences as always.
Do I have to hire a Competent Person?
Yes is the short answer. The Management of Health and Safety Work Regulations Act of 1999 explicitly stipulates that every organization must have access to at least one competent individual. No matter how big or small your company is or what industry it operates in, you need a skilled employee.
You can outsource a Competent Person to health and safety consultants if, after conducting an assessment, you have determined that no one in your organization is eligible to be given the responsibility as a competent individual. If you operate in an industry with a lot of risk or are a niche business, you might decide to do this. Competence must be higher the higher the risk. It is not a bad idea to err on the side of caution and is always the safer option.
Choosing a competent individual
As an employer, you must appoint a competent individual to assist you in carrying out your health and safety responsibilities. A competent individual is somebody with the vital abilities, information and experience to oversee wellbeing and security. Health and safety may be something you can manage on your own without hiring outside help if you run a low-risk business.
If your business operates in a high-risk environment, hiring a health and safety professional externally is recommended, even though employers can appoint a competent person in health and safety within their organization (as long as that employer has the necessary competency). As a result, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your employees are safe at work and that your company follows the law.
How to become an OSHA-certified competent person
- Acquire experience: A competent worker on a job site ought to have the experience necessary to comprehend the particulars of the project and its tasks. This could indicate that they have worked in a variety of positions in the construction industry for a long time. It could also indicate that a competent individual has less industry experience but has received highly specialized training for a particular job.
- Complete training: In addition to experience, there are training courses available that will enhance your construction-related knowledge and skills. It is essential to ensure that a training course directly applies to your job when selecting one. A foreperson, for instance, who is in charge of a project that involves extensive electrical work might enroll in a course on electrical safety. You should let your boss look over the courses you’re thinking about to make sure they cover the right topics and give you all the training you need to be a competent person.
- Earn the title: After completing your training, discuss becoming a competent worker on the jobsite with your supervisor or superintendent. You can submit a CV or resume detailing your experience and completed training courses. You could likewise give authentications from your courses and the scores of your preparation tests assuming you scored exceptionally. During your conversation, convey your interest in the position and exhibit the characteristics listed below:
- Leadership skills;
- Attention to detail;
- Understanding of regulations
- Complete a trial period: Many supervisors may require a trial period for a newly appointed competent employee. The employee’s on-site behavior should be monitored by the employer to ensure that they promptly and appropriately address any safety concerns.
According to OSHA’s definition of a competent individual, they must be authorized to take corrective action. You must be authorized to serve in this capacity by your employer, regardless of your training and experience. You will be able to demonstrate your dedication to the position as well as your knowledge, technical abilities, leadership, and communication abilities during the trial period. Show the rest of the crew that you are respected by your superior and that they will follow your lead.
- Inform others: You are required to share this information with the construction crew once your supervisor officially identifies you as the competent person for a project. They need to be aware of who to talk to about safety concerns and that you have the authority to stop work or put in place new procedures.