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Health & Safety Consultants

Competent Person

Competent Person

The Health and Safety Competent Person

Have you ever wondered what a health and safety competent person is? You may have been asked who this person is for your business on pre-qualification questionnaires or for health and safety accreditation schemes such as CHAS or SafeContractor. In this blog we discuss the role and legal responsibilities.

What does Competent Person mean?

The meaning within health and safety usually goes back to the management of health and safety at work regulations, 1999 (MHSWR). In these regulations it is a requirement for every employer to appoint competent persons to assist with health and safety requirements.

It’s not someone that you can transfer your responsibilities to as an employer but someone who can assist and advise on health and safety. It’s important to remember that you cannot transfer your liabilities.

The definition of a competent person, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is that a competent person should have sufficient training and experience or knowledge to 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. It could be more than one person too, as contending with over 100 health and safety regulations can be a challenge.

They may act as an advisor or consultant in that they provide recommendations or act as a health and safety manager having the authority to take action and report back.

Who can be a Competent Person?

So, in basic terms who they are is someone appointed by the employer. What they do, is to assist with health and safety requirements. Much like the HSE’s definition of competent person the oxford dictionary defines competent as “having the necessary ability, knowledge or skill to do something successfully”.

To ensure your success when getting help, you could look to those in your own organisation who have the appropriate level of competence (which can include the employer themselves) or you could seek some external assistance. Or it could be a combination of the two.

However, you must consult health and safety representatives in good time on the arrangements for competent help.

Competent Person Legal Requirements

As you will have read, under MHSWR the competent person is a legal requirement. They do not say you should or might, they say you shall appoint a competent person.

These regulations are not the only place this requirement for the competent person is mentioned. The role comes up time and time again in many health and safety regulations. Here are a couple of examples:

- The work at height regulations 2005, schedule 3. …an assembly, use and dismantling plan shall be drawn up by a competent person.

- The lifting operations and lifting equipment regulations 1998, through examination and inspection. …if appropriate for purpose, is inspected by a competent person at suitable intervals between thorough examinations.

These examples demonstrate some of the different health and safety areas that require a competent person. It is clear to see why you may need more than one competent person. If you haven’t got the right person working for you this could be provided by our team at ST Safety Services.

Moreover, there are times when you need to get specialist external help. For example, for an unusual or infrequent hazard or activity. It might not be practical, or possible to have someone with the knowledge, experience, and expertise within the workforce. Especially if you have a small team.

Remember if you appoint someone as the competent person internally it does not mean you cannot seek external help and support when you need it. Equally just because you have an external consultant it does not mean that you can’t have an employee act as a competent person for certain health and safety requirements too.

Ultimately there is a legal requirement to have a health and safety competent person. Not appointing someone, or appointing the wrong person, is deemed to be a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and can lead to fines, intervention by your own regulatory body and, depending on the severity of the situation, can even lead to a prison sentence.

It can also cause issues for your business insurances, pre-qualification questionnaires or for health and safety accreditation schemes.

What to do next

Think about your workplace and the health and safety requirements that need a competent person. If you are usure where to start and need any further information, advice or an external competent person that really understands your business needs, contact us.