Safetip #144: Competent Person With Authority to Correct Hazards

October 10, 2018

This week’s Safetip is about designating a competent person who also has authority to correct hazards, in addition to being able to identify them.

What is a “Competent Person” Under OSHA?

The term “Competent Person” is used in many OSHA regulations, standards and documents. In 29 CFR 1926.32(f), an OSHA competent person is defined 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.”

A competent person:

  • Is knowledgeable of applicable standards as a result of training or work experience.
  • Can identify workplace hazards relating to the specific operation.
  • Has the authority to correct hazards.

Some OSHA standards also include additional requirements that must be met by the competent person.

A Competent Person Must Have Authority, Not Just Knowledge

Even though OSHA provides a definition of what constitutes a competent person, there can still be some confusion stemming from the fact that someone can be very knowledgeable about the work and the potential hazards, but may lack the authority to take corrective actions to address the hazard, either by removing it or implementing control measures to mitigate the risk from exposure to the hazard.

For example, completing a comprehensive training program on scaffolds is not enough on its own to make someone a competent person under the construction scaffold standard (see this letter of interpretation). The competent person must also have the authority to take prompt corrective action. No training course or program can provide that authority, since it can only be provided by the employer.

Also, someone doesn’t become a competent person simply by being assigned the title by a supervisor or manager. Furthermore, beware of “competent person training” or a training course claiming that participants who pass it will have “met OSHA requirements for a competent person designation”.

When designating competent persons, look at their knowledge level and ability to identify hazards, but also make sure that they have the authority to launch corrective and preventive action plans to address hazards.

Visit Enablon Insights again next Wednesday for a new Safetip!

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