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Health and Safety in the workplace: What is a competent person?


By law, all organisations are required to maintain health and safety to the highest possible standard at all times to ensure that their staff, customers, contractors, and anybody who enters the premises are protected from any potential harms and risks.  


To ensure these standards are sufficiently met, it is a legal requirement to appoint at least one ‘competent person’ within your organisation to assist and advise the employer on matters regarding health and safety in the workplace.  


You may have heard this key role mentioned regularly in regards to health and safety, but what exactly is a competent person, and how can they support your business? 

What is a competent person?  

According to the HSE, a competent person “should have the skills, knowledge and experience to be able to recognise hazards in your business and help you put sensible controls in place to protect workers and others from harm.”  


Although the HSE does not detail exact specifications around which types of skills, knowledge or experience this person needs to have, an individual with a sound knowledge of health and safety relevant to your organisation would be the ideal candidate for this role. These requirements would largely depend on the type of organisation they would be assisting with, and the complexity and risk-level of the premises.  


The role of the competent person is to assist and advise the employer in minimising risk, however it is still the legal duty of the employer to ensure health and safety requirements are met. Duties could include:  


  • Assisting in writing and reviewing Health and Safety policy  
  • Identifying and taking steps to minimise/eliminate hazards and risks.  
  • Implementing safe systems of work (such as manual handling, mental health & wellbeing)  
  • Ensuring first aid, fire safety, health and safety and welfare requirements are met 
  • Arranging appropriate staff training  


Do I need a competent person for my business? 


Yes, this is a legal requirement, as specified in the Management of Health and Safety Work Regulations 1999 which states: 

“Every employer shall, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him…” 


These regulations are in place to improve health and safety standards and to protect not only the public, but also the employer if an incident were to happen.  


Who should the competent person(s) be?  


You can appoint yourself, another member of staff, or an external professional to offer industry-specific advice and support. There can be more than one competent person within an organisation if required.  


The decision depends on a number of factors such as the size and scale of your operations, the complexities of your health and safety regulations, and the type of support generally required.  


For small, low-risk operations such as a small office, you could appoint yourself. If you run a medium sized business and have a health and safety manager, it would be logical to assign this role to them.  


For larger and more complex operations such as a factory employing many hundreds of people and using dangerous equipment, chemicals and procedures, it could be beneficial to look for extra support from outside of your business from an industry expert.  


Whoever is undertaking the role of competent person should ideally have undertaken sufficient training in health and safety (and continue to refresh this training), be familiar with the environment, activities and potential risks typical to the organisation, and demonstrate good problem solving and decision making skills to implement policies and procedures.  


At CoreGenic, we offer a range of expert services to support the health and safety compliance of your organisation such as consultations, audits, project and site management, training and more.  


Get in touch with our team today to learn how we can support your business health and safety compliance.  

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