One of the most common misconceptions about designating a Competent Person on a construction site is the person with the most knowledge of the activity being performed, or the person who has attended training should be the Competent Person. In fact, that individual may or may not be the best person for the job. There are other factors that must be considered when making this designation. Also, this designation should not be confused with that of a qualified person.
OSHA defines “Qualified” as one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training and experience, has successfully demonstrated the ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work or the project. A Competent Person observes specific job activities and is responsible for assuring that the work is performed safely. However, a certificate or card alone does not automatically make a person “competent.” The Competent Person must:
- Be capable of identifying all workplace hazards relating to the specific operation (considering your particular type of work, process, equipment, tools, etc.)
- Be designated by the employer. The task is often assigned to a foreman or supervisor, but anyone can be designated as a Competent Person if they have the proper training and experience. In most cases, the safety duties assigned to the Competent Person are in addition to his or her normal duties on the jobsite. However, on some large projects, being the Competent Person can be a full-time job.
- Have authority to take appropriate actions to provide a safe workplace, correct unsafe conditions and stop work.
OSHA standards require a Competent Person to be at the work site performing or observing certain tasks. Companies are often cited by OSHA because they don’t have a Competent Person overseeing activities onsite. Below is a partial listing of OSHA standards that require a Competent Person to perform specific functions:
- Excavating and Trenching
- Fall Protection (scaffolds, ladders, stairways)
- Hearing Protection (noise measurement)
- Material Handling (rigging equipment, cranes and derricks)
- Material Hoists, Personnel Hoists and Elevators
- Concrete and Masonry Construction (lift-slab operations)
- Steel Erection (bolting, riveting, fitting-up and plumbing-up)
- Demolition (preparatory operations)
- Lead and Asbestos Handling
A Competent Person is a key individual on every jobsite. Their inspection and guidance are for your protection and safety. Respect and listen to them. It could save your life.