The concept of a "competent person" is confusing to many. Many people believe that to become a "competent person" they have to complete a specific course or certification. While training is part of what makes a competent person, it is not just the result of completing a course.
Definition of a Competent Person
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." This comes from regulation 29 CFR 1926.32(f).
Competent Persons are Designated by the Employer
To be a competent person, you just need to be designated by the employer. They have the authority to decide if your training and experience qualify you as a competent person in the workplace. Competent persons must meet the two main criteria:
- Identify Hazards - Competent persons must have the understanding and experience in the workplace to identify hazards. A person who is new to the job is not likely to meet this criteria.
- Authority to Correct Hazards - Competent persons must be able to immediately correct hazards in the workplace. They should be granted specific authority by the employer.
It is a Good Idea to Document Competent Persons
While not always required, it is good practice to document which employees have been designated as competent persons for the relevant subject and work area. If OSHA visits or has to investigate, you can produce documentation that proves the employees had been evaluated and designated as a competent person.