What Is A Competent Person In Health & Safety?

As an employer, you should be aware that you have certain health and safety responsibilities to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all your employees, sub-contractors and anyone who may be affected by your business activities.

If you’re not aware of your health and safety obligations, if you don’t understand what you need to do to be compliant, if you think you might know but you’re unsure, or you simply just don’t know, then you’ll need to consider appointing a Health & Safety Competent Person.

It is a requirement of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 that, as an employer, you have access to one or more Competent Persons for advising and assisting you with your health and safety responsibilities. Within larger organisations, there are designated Health & Safety Departments, or Health & Safety Managers who can provide that help and advice. However, in small to medium sized businesses, it may be necessary to appoint an external individual or organisation to fill in any gaps in health and safety competence.

So, what is a Competent Person in Health and Safety? Well, there are a number of considerations when assessing whether an individual is competent. Firstly, do they have appropriate qualifications and have they received the necessary training, and do they regularly attend refresher training?  Secondly, do they possess the experience or knowledge and other qualities that will allow them to assist you properly? The level of competence will depend on the complexities and level of risk within your business.

Health & Safety is a real minefield and can be such a headache. There are so many different aspects to Health & Safety – so many different areas, topics and sector-specific Health & Safety requirements. There is no one Health & Safety Professional who knows it all; if someone claims they do, stay well clear! So, you shouldn’t just appoint any Health & Safety Professional to assist and help you comply with your statutory Health & Safety duties, as their level of competence may simply be inadequate for the industry or sector in which you operate.

Would you consider appointing a Health & Safety professional who operates in the Healthcare sector to provide assistance and advice on an oil rig, or somebody who may have exceptional Health & Safety credentials within the Food Hygiene sector to provide you with guidance and support on your construction project? Of course not!

The important thing here is to remember to do your due diligence; make sure that whoever you consider appointing as your Health and Safety Competent Person has the right qualifications, training and skills.  Also, check their track record and make sure that they have the relevant knowledge and experience within your industry sector and are familiar with the hazards you encounter. If you do this and they can satisfactorily demonstrate that they have met the required criteria, then you will have potentially found a Competent Person in Health and Safety!

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].