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What is the Competent Person?

Written by:
Paula Coster

BA (Hons), MSc.
Associate Member CIEHF

In UK there are significant costs to industry every year resulting from poor health and safety much of which could be avoided by better health and safety management. Central to this is appointing a Competent Person.

30.7 million
Working days lost due to work-related ill health and nonfatal workplace injuries 2017/18
Source: Labour Force Survey (LFS)

Why you need a Competent Person

UK legislation places a legal obligation on employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment. Furthermore, you are required to protect visitors, contractors and members of the public visiting the premises. This requirement to have a competent person extends to every workplace no matter how small or large your company is. Read the Regulations here Regulation 7 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

As an employer, in order to fulfil your legal obligations, you need someone ‘competent’, that is with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience of health and safety policy and procedures.

Competent Person Meaning

The HSE defines a Competent Person:

“A competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities that allow them to assist you properly.”

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

What should a Competent Person do?

The Competent Person should assist the employer to ensure the legal requirements of health and safety law are met.

The level of competence required varies from company to company and it is proportionate to the industry in which you work.  In a low-risk business such as an office environment, it is likely you or an appointed member of staff can act as a Competent Person.  In a higher risk environment, you will need to get industry-specific advice.

The office-based Competent Person

In an office-based environment, the Competent Person could assist in managing your health & safety responsibilities. For instance:

  • Prepare or assist in the writing and reviewing of a Health & Safety policy.
  • Identify potential or actual risks and hazard and take steps to minimise or eliminate the risk where possible
  • Put safe systems of work into place e.g. for manual handling and for working with computers (DSE).
  • Ensure requirements for first aid and for fire safety are met.
  • Ensure safeguards are in place for COSHH, legionella and asbestos.
  • Ensure ventilation, temperature, lighting, toilet, washing and rest facilities satisfy health, safety and welfare standards
  • Understand the correct procedure for reporting work-placed accidents and diseases (RIDDOR).
  • Be aware of extra considerations needed for expectant mothers, lone workers, mobile and home workers.
  • Identify and arrange appropriate training for staff to allow them to work safely.

In summary

Looking after the health & safety of your staff is important and it must form an integral part of your business. It is incumbent on employers to appoint competent help in order to do this. Not only will it keep your workforce fit and well, but it will also keep you within the law.

Need more help?

For help with managing your Health and Safety, get in touch. We can offer you: