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A Helpful Guide to Appointing a Competent Person


In order to meet the requirements of health and safety law, it is necessary for employers to obtain help from a ‘competent person’. What constitutes a competent person, and how to decide who to appoint, are covered in this article.

In order to meet the requirements of health and safety law, it is necessary for employers to obtain help from a ‘competent person'. What constitutes a competent person, and how to decide who to appoint, are covered in this article.

What is the definition of a competent person?

A competent person is defined as someone with adequate training and experience or knowledge, or other abilities, that mean they are in a position to properly assist you with your health and safety responsibilities.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and other legislation appropriate to individual industry sectors, it is a legal requirement to appoint a competent person.

Who should be appointed as a competent person?

The nature of your business and the complexity of the health and safety that goes with it will have a bearing on your choice of competent person. Factories and construction sites for example will demand a greater level and different types of competence than offices.

When choosing your competent person, you should give preference to people who work within your organisation. Anyone can be appointed, providing they possess the required level of competence. There is nothing to stop you as the employer taking on the role of the competent person. If you decide however that the expertise does not exist within your organisation, then you should seek help from outside.

Because there are usually a range of different risks in any workplace, employers can appoint different competent persons to take responsibility for specific risks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers a useful tool to help you get the right help with your health and safety duties.

How is competence defined?

A competent person must have had sufficient training and possess adequate experience and knowledge to enable them to provide the necessary guidance on health and safety.

A competent person must have the skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety across an organisation, rather than simply undertake a set task safely.

For the more straightforward working environment, the competent person will simply need to have an understanding of health and safety best practice applicable to the situation. Where the workplace presents higher risks however, a greater and more specific level of knowledge and experience will be necessary.

There is a range of HSE guidance available, including information designed to help employers understand the levels of competence required to work in specific environments or industries.

Information on the competence levels needed for different industries and work activities is also available on the National Occupational Standards website.

It is down to the employer to satisfy his or herself that the appointed competent person possesses the necessary levels of expertise appropriate to the situation.

When to consider using an external competent person

No one knows a business as well as the people who work within it, and the HSE states that preference should be given to employees when appointing a competent person.

Sometimes however you may need to call in specialist external assistance. This may be the case if your organisation is particularly large; if you have unusual hazards within your workplace, or where there is a task that only needs to be undertaken from time to time. Sometimes it may just not be practical to have someone with the required knowledge, expertise and experience in-house.

Even if you have appointed an in-house competent person, you may still wish to seek external help for certain tasks.

Assistance from PMR Solutions

At PMR Solutions we offer a competent person service with expertise across a variety of industry sectors and levels of risk. To discover more about how we act as your organisation's competent person, please get in touch.

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