When It Comes to Safety, Is Your Competent Person Competent?

HR & Safety

Shedding light on an often-misunderstood topic

By Milton Jacobs, CSP

The term competent person is used in many OSHA standards and documents. For example, 18 of 26 OSHA Construction Industry Subparts have some type of requirement for a competent person.

OSHA defines a competent person as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”

The key words here are capable of identifying and authorization to correct.

Does an OSHA 10-Hour Card Equal Competent?

Some employers may be under the impression that an OSHA 10- or 30-hour card, in and of itself, qualifies an employee as a competent person, but that’s not necessarily correct. A worker must have experience and/or training and be authorized by the employer as a competent person.

For example, let’s say you have scaffolding on your site, and it needs to be inspected. Who is qualified to do this?

To inspect scaffolding, a 10-hour card may be adequate, but only if the person holding it has relevant experience, competent-person training in scaffolding, and authorization by his or her employer.

What Can Trade Contractors Do?

Ensure that you identify employees who are experienced, knowledgeable, and trained in the particular area for which they are being designated as a competent person.

Some questions you might ask yourself include:

1. Do they know the relevant OSHA requirements?

2. Do they know how to apply their knowledge to specific tasks in the field?

3. Do they have training in the area, and is it more than just an OSHA 10- or 30-hour training course?

4. Are your competent people aware that they have been designated as such?

5. Did you inform them specifically that they are authorized to stop work on your company’s behalf?

6. Do you/they realize that there may be multiple competent people for the job, based on the work performed?

7. Do you document, for your site-specific safety plan, who your competent people are?

What Can an Owner, General Contractor, or Contract Manager Do?

1. Ensure you get the on-site trade contractors to document who their competent people are.

2. Ensure that the competent person is competent by asking some of the questions above.

Remember: Having a competent competent person on your job site is a critical part of your injury-liability prevention and your OSHA compliance process, so make sure your competent person is competent!

Milton Jacobs is a Certified Safety Professional with Safety Solution Consultants, Inc., in East Granby. If you have any questions or would like to inquire about services or an upcoming seminar, contact him at 860.653.3580 or click here.

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