Do I Need To Appoint A Competent Person To Keep My Business Health & Safety Compliant?

Do I need to appoint a Competent Person? Well, it really does depend! Not very useful, I know, but there are a number of factors that you’ll need to consider.

As a business owner or employer, you do have legal health and safety responsibilities and the extent of these will depend on a number of factors such as:

• the number of people you employ
• the industry you operate in
• the type of work you undertake
• the types of hazards you encounter

We all have to comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act; this is the overarching Act which all our health and safety law is based on. There are many other regulations which sit under this Act which – depending on the nature of your business and the activities you undertake – again depend on which regulations you’ll need to comply with.

The important thing here is, whatever your business, you must make sure that you have access to competent health and safety advice and assistance. This is a specific requirement under The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, where you are required to appoint one or more Competent Persons to assist you in complying with your statutory duties.

Another consideration is whether you have the competence to fulfil all your obligations without any help or assistance. Have you received the necessary training? Do you have the health and safety knowledge and experience to discharge your duties? Perhaps you do, which is great! But even then, can you afford the time to put that knowledge and experience into practice?

Consider the time you have to spare: do you have the time to put in place and implement sound health and safety protocols which are compliant with current legislation? After all, if there is an accident or you are found to be non-compliant with health and safety, not having sufficient time – or being preoccupied with other aspects of your business – is, quite simply, no defence.

We go into business because we are passionate about a product or a service that we believe in. Quite rightly, we have to protect our employees and others who may be affected by our activities – what rightminded employer wouldn’t? However, as a business owner, your focus is always going to be on what got you into business in the first place… and health and safety, although it may be unintentional, can get overlooked!

Depending on the size of your company and the people working within it, you may be able to appoint one or more people internally to support you in discharging some of your duties. If so, you must ensure that they are competent to carry out the health and safety tasks and they’re given adequate information and support. You must also bear in mind that seeking assistance does not discharge or negate your responsibilities, so make sure you appoint the right people.

If there is no competent worker within your organisation to provide the health and safety assistance required, or the level of competence is insufficient to help you comply with health and safety law, then as an employer, you will need to enlist an external service or company to provide that expertise. In some circumstances, a combination of both internal and external competence will provide the support needed.

Something else you may consider if you operate within the construction sector is joining one of a number of accreditation schemes such as CHAS, Constructionline, Safecontractor. You could even look at getting onto an approved tender list or perhaps become an approved contractor yourself. Getting on to these lists or registers can be quite onerous and, since everyone has health and safety responsibilities, the list of health and safety criteria can be demanding. One thing is for sure: one of the health and safety questions they will always ask (and if they don’t, I’ll be absolutely amazed!) is ‘Provide details of your Competent Person?’

Clients need to know that they are appointing competent organisations who:

• can demonstrate good health and safety standards
• possess sound health and safety systems and procedures
• have a suitable trained workforce
• have a good accident/incident record
• have access to a Competent Person

Good due diligence ensures that clients also comply with their health and safety obligations to appoint competent companies.

So, do you need to appoint a Competent Person? That is for you to decide!

For further details on Marpal’s Health and Safety Competent Persons Scheme, please contact Paul Littlewood on 01332 668877 or via email at [email protected].