The answer to this question might not always be clear. Since OSHA only provides guidelines and not specific standards for what is considered a competent person, it’s often left up to the organization to determine who that person is. Companies usually have to make their own decision on which employees can serve as a competent person.
If an OSHA inspector were to show up at your job site, would you be able to identify the competent person(s) and have the proper documentation available? Would that person even be aware that they are the designated competent person on the site, and would they fully understand what that means? Would that designated person be able to perform his/her duties in compliance with OSHA standards?
Many aspects of construction projects require inspections by a competent person. Things like scaffolding, PPE, electrical, welding, excavation, hazardous materials handling and fall protection all require review by a competent person on the job site.
If OSHA asks who the “competent person” is on site and you don’t know
who that is or what it means, you may be looking at a citation
How OSHA Defines 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” [29 CFR 1926.32(f)].
A competent person is not necessarily a safety professional. By way of training and/or experience a competent person is knowledgeable of applicable standards, is capable of identifying workplace hazards relating to the specific operation, and has the authority to correct them. Some standards have additional specific requirements which must be met by the competent person. The employer is responsible for designating the competent person.
If there’s an accident involving fall protection, for example, OSHA may ask, either in person or in a document/information request for the company to name the competent person. You can be sure the OSHA inspector will ask questions to confirm if that person actually is a competent person.
Here’s a short video that further explains the definition of a competent person:
It’s important to designate a competent person who is specifically trained and knowledgeable in their area of expertise. This person must be aware of their responsibilities and available to perform them.
OSHA inspections have been increasing and site visits are becoming more common. Having a designated competent person when required is a great way to be proactive when it comes to safety. If trained properly, they will identify and resolve any hazards prior to an incident occurring. Be sure to avoid fines and citations by designating a competent person, or persons, to maintain a safe and healthy work environment.
Specific OSHA regulations that mention the need for a competent person are listed here:
Contact CCI today to learn more about the competent person requirements for your site.