As we briefly mentioned in last week’s blog post, regulations require employers to identify and appoint a competent person to oversee health and safety at the workplace. But what exactly does this mean? What skills is a competent person expected to have and what if there is nobody within your business that fits the requirements? This is what we’ll discuss this week.
What Is a ‘Competent Person’?
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, a competent person is defined as one who has ‘the ability to undertake responsibilities and perform activities to a recognised standard on a regular basis. It combines practical skills, knowledge, and experience.’
Unfortunately, the definition is a bit vague, as the criteria listed is rather broad, and can be slightly confusing. Simply explained, a competent person is someone who helps your business stay compliant with health and safety legislation by taking all necessary steps to keep your employees safe. This includes being able to recognise health and safety hazards and identifying the most appropriate solutions.
Who Can You Appoint?
According to HSE guidelines, you can appoint either one or a combination of the following:
- One or more of your employees
- Someone from outside of your organisation
Most times, managing health and safety can be done by yourself and your workers and, unless your business involves complex work, there should be a member or multiple members of staff at your workplace who can deal with these situations as long as they receive the relevant training. Hiring a competent person in-house is encouraged by the Regulations as your team members already know your business and the risks associated with it.
What Skills Should a Competent Person Have?
The skills and qualities of the appointed competent person should be relevant to the type of work carried out at your business. Consider whether the individual:
- Has the ability to identify potential hazards and carry out risk assessments
- Understands how the work is carried out, what tools are used and the environment it takes place in
- Knows how to implement the organisation’s incident reporting and investigation procedure
- Is able to clearly and concisely communicate information such as control measures or assessment results to the rest of your employees
- Has the authority to initiate corrective action in case of a health and safety transgression
- Has practical experience within your industry/activities
- Is accountable and understands their responsibility to prevent hazardous situations
- Maintains a proactive approach and demonstrates genuine concern for their health and safety repsonsibilities
- Has sufficient knowledge on legal requirements/regulations
The Importance of Appropriate Training
Your appointed competent person is not required to have a formal qualification, but this doesn’t mean they don’t need the knowledge and skillset to perform basic health and safety practices. Even if they have enough experience and a great work ethic, they wouldn’t be considered competent if they’re not familiar with procedures such as risk assessments, for example.
This is why one of the most important aspects of ensuring your appointed employee is competent is by providing them with appropriate training. Meduc8ion’s Occupational Health Technician Training Course can help you ensure that they have the ability to properly and comprehensively perform their health and safety responsibilities within a defined field of competence, keeping your workforce and organisation safe and compliant with law.