Safety Program Management Consultants

What is a Competent Person as defined by OSHA?

Competent Person
  • The term Competent Person keeps coming up in construction safety and I have noticed there is a bit of a mystery as to what it means and how it’s defined by OSHA (Occupational Health and Safety Administration). In this post, you’ll learn exactly what the term Competent Person means, as well as the requirements and responsibilities.

    What does the term Competent Person mean?

    OSHA defines a Competent Person as the following:

    • Person capable of identifying hazards
    • Has the authority to stop the job if necessary and the authority to make corrections to the hazards
    • Determines if it’s safe to work on a particular project
    • Trains other workers to recognize hazards
    • Should always be at the job site

    How do you become a Competent Person?

    There is no mandatory Competent Person training or official certification. It is a good idea to have some formal OSHA safety training such as an OSHA 30 Hr. or 10 Hr. certification, but unless it has been specifically requested by the General Contractor, it is not needed. The main qualifications are that he or she have the experience to recognize hazards and has the power to temporarily shut down the job if needed to rectify a safety hazard.

    The Competent Person is usually most beneficial in jobs that involve:

    • Scaffolding
    • Fall Protection
    • Ladders
    • Excavation

    Is it required to have a Competent Person?

    It is becoming common place by many General Contractors that there are requirements for a Competent Person to be named on every job that a subcontractor performs. This requirement is used as a greater emphasis for safety when a full-time safety manager is not practical to be at the job.

    Many times, the Competent Person on the job might be the Foreman, but if the job is too large there might be multiple Competent Persons designated for different work areas. Also, sometimes the Foreman might be running multiple jobs and going to different job locations throughout the course of his day. A Competent Person always needs to be on the job so if the regular one leaves, a second Competent Person must assume the role.

    It is also important for the Foreman to let every worker in his employ know who the Competent Person is and that everyone has the ability to contact them. I have seen OSHA’s inspectors on a job site randomly ask workers who the Competent Person is for that particular job. If the employee does not know, there is an immediate problem with more to follow. So, remember a Competent Person is not automatically the Foreman or the most experienced person on the job.

    What do they do?

    This is not all inclusive, but rather a few examples of what the Competent Person responsibilities are on a daily basis:

    1. Inspection: Performs a pre-job start physical inspection of the job site looking for hazards.
    2. Scaffolding: Checks the construction of the scaffold and looking at footings, locking pins, plank board locations, proximity to electrical wires, guard railings intact, setting up a controlled access zone for falling object hazards, signing the scaffold inspection card.
    3. Fall Protection: Checks to make sure all guardrail barricades are in place, checking tie off points, looking at fall protection equipment, making sure workers are using personal fall arrest systems properly.
    4. Excavations: Inspects the excavation each morning prior to work, looking for excess water, making sure proper sloping or benching is being performed for the type of soil, looking at proper use of trench protection is in place, setting up safety flagging to warn other workers from being to close to an open excavation edge. Also re-inspects excavation after each weather event.
    5. Ladders: Physically checks ladders for damage, the right ladders for the job, ladder 36” extended 36” above step off point, ladder tied off for stability, not too close to electrical wires.
    6. Electrical: Physically checks extension cords and tool cords for damage, verifying that all electrical tool use is GFIC protected. Cord protection in high traffic areas, no exposed wiring or open junction boxes.

    I hope this helps clear up any confusion about when a Competent Person is required on the job site.  If you need any assistance with OSHA compliance, please contact us today.

    Request Initial Consultation

    Request Consultation