The Health And Safety Competent Person

A competent person in health and safety is an individual with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to assist employers in maintaining a safe workplace. Key responsibilities include: Risk Assessment: Identifying and evaluating workplace hazards. Advising: Providing guidance on health and safety regulations and best practices. Training: Educating employees on safety procedures and compliance. Monitoring: Ensuring that safety measures are implemented and maintained. Incident Investigation: Analyzing accidents and incidents to prevent recurrence. The competent person supports employers in fulfilling their legal health and safety obligations, promoting a culture of safety within the organisation.

Summary

Employers cannot delegate all their health and safety responsibilities to a competent person. However, a skilled person can assist and provide valuable advice. In this post, we explore the meaning, definition, and legal requirements of a qualified person in health and safety, highlighting their essential role in supporting workplace safety compliance. If you have been asked who your health and safety competent person is, or been asked to be a health and safety competent person, you might wonder what this means. Who is the qualified person? What do they do? In this post, we discuss this role, including the meaning, definition, and legal requirements of a competent person in health and safety.

The Health And Safety Competent Person – Understanding the Role of a Competent Person in Health and Safety.

Employers cannot delegate all their health and safety responsibilities to a competent person. However, a skilled person can assist and provide valuable advice. In this post, we explore the meaning, definition, and legal requirements of a qualified person in health and safety, highlighting their essential role in supporting workplace safety compliance.

If you have been asked who your health and safety competent person is, or been asked to be a health and safety competent person, you might wonder what this means. Who is the qualified person? What do they do?

In this post, we discuss this role, including the meaning, definition, and legal requirements of a competent person in health and safety.

What is a health and safety competent person?

A competent health and safety person can assist you with your employer’s health and safety responsibilities, which are a legal requirement.

You must get help from a competent person to enable you to meet the requirements of health and safety law.HSE A competent person

You can appoint a competent person from within your business (e.g., a staff member), and this is preferred. However, you can also appoint a competent person from outside your business (e.g., a consultant) when you need extra help.

You might have one or several competent health and safety people helping with different health and safety management aspects.

The competent person should have the skills and knowledge to guide you as an employer, tell you what you need to do to comply with the law, and improve health and safety.

They might act as a consultant or adviser, providing recommendations. They might also act as a health and safety manager and have the authority to take action and report back.

Competent person definition

The Health And Safety Competent Person – A competent person is someone with the training, experience, and knowledge to assist employers with their health and safety duties.

A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly.

HSE A competent person

The competent person isn’t someone employers can hand over all their health and safety responsibilities to. Employers can’t transfer their duties. But it is someone who can assist and advise. A competent person will also take on additional health and safety responsibilities.

When do you need a competent person?

You might be asked for details of your competent person on client pre-qualification questionnaires or health and safety accreditations like CHAS. However, a qualified health and safety person isn’t just a requirement for projects or certification; it’s a legal requirement.

Every employer has health and safety responsibilities. But you are not expected to handle your health and safety duties alone.

Every business needs at least one competent person qualified in health and safety.

When talking about the health and safety competent person, you can find the legal requirement in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (MHSWR).

The MHSWR states that every employer shall appoint one or more competent persons to assist with health and safety requirements.

7.—(1) Every employer shall, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), 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…The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Health and safety assistance

Notice that there is not just one competent person, but can be one or more. After all, there are over 100 health and safety regulations. You might need multiple people to assist with different regulations.

For example, Bill on site might act as a competent person to inspect excavations. Beth, the project manager, might take control of assisting with the measures needed under the provision and use of work equipment regulations (PUWER).

Who can be a competent person?

Okay, we now know what the term ‘competent person’ means in terms of health and safety.

  • someone appointed by employers
  • to assist with health and safety requirements

Going back to the MHSWR, we can see that having an employed competent person over an external adviser or consultant is preferable. It’s written into the regulations.

(8) Where there is a competent person in the employer’s employment, that person shall be appointed for the purposes of paragraph (1) in preference to a competent person not in his employment.The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 Health and safety assistance

Why might this be? Well, if your competent person works for you directly, they are you going to know your business, your work activities and your team much better than someone who only comes to visit once a month or once a year.

There are times when an employee might have the right level of competence. For legal requirements that affect you daily or weekly, having assistance close at hand is invaluable. Even with the cost involved with ongoing training needed to keep up to speed with the regulations and maintain knowledge, it usually works out cheaper than an external consultant.

But of course, you have to strike the right balance here.

There are times when you may need to get specialist external help, for example, an unusual or infrequent hazard or activity or a task you only need to undertake once a year. It might not be practical or possible to have someone with the knowledge, experience, and expertise in-house, especially if you have a small team.

equipment inspection tag

How do you become a competent person?

Let’s consider the title of a competent person. A person who is competent. So to become a competent person, you need to be skilled in the area of health and safety where you are appointed as a qualified person.

The Oxford dictionary defines competent as “having the necessary ability, knowledge, or skill to do something successfully.” In terms of health and safety, a competent person is a person who has the ability, knowledge, or skill to assist the employer in health and safety requirements.

You become a competent person through:

  • Skill
  • Knowledge
  • Ability and Attitude
  • Training
  • Experience

A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly. The level of competence required will depend on the complexity of the situation and the particular help you need. — HSE – A competent person

You could become a competent person in one area or several areas of health and safety.

For example, you might have someone working in your business that’s very experienced in lifting operations. They might know how to plan and manage a lift safely, but not know the exact details of when to inspect equipment to comply with the law. With a little extra training, their skills and experience would make them an excellent competent person for lifting operations.

As we have already seen under MHSWR, a competent person is a legal requirement. It doesn’t say you should, or you might, it says you shall appoint a competent person.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations are not the only place you will find mention of the competent person. This role pops up time and time again in various health and safety regulations. Here are some more examples:

(a) the excavation and any work equipment and materials which may affect its safety have been inspected by a competent personThe Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Excavations

…if appropriate for the purpose, is inspected by a competent person at suitable intervals between thorough examinations…The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 Thorough examination and inspection

…an assembly, use and dismantling plan shall be drawn up by a competent person.The Work at Height Regulations 2005 Schedule 3

Again, this shows why it may be useful – even necessary – to have more than one competent person to assist an employer with their legal duties.

For example, you may choose to appoint one person to act as a competent person under LOLER (the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations), and you may appoint someone else as a competent person for ladder or scaffold inspections.

lifting equipment

Remember, you can have one or more competent persons. Just because you have appointed someone internally, doesn’t mean you can’t get outside when (and if) you need it.

And just because you have an external consultant, doesn’t mean you can’t have an employee act as a competent person for certain health and safety requirements.

Find out more about what you need to do to comply with health and safety laws in the legal health and safety requirements for employers.

This article was written by Mathew Oldham (HSQE Consultancy Ltd). Mathew has over 20 years of experience in health and safety and an MSc (Hons) in Construction Management. Mathew is NEBOSH Health and Safety, Construction, Fire, Environment and Diploma qualified and CertIOSH.

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