In our last article we talked about some of the things you need to consider, or arrange, when it comes to Health and Safety within the workplace.  One of the first things you need to sort out is appointing a Competent Person; but what exactly does this mean?

Competent Person: A Definition

Regulation 7 of The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that:

“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 by or under the relevant statutory provisions and by Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.”

The regulations then go on to say that someone will be deemed to be competent if they have the necessary training, experience, knowledge and “other qualities” suited for the role.  All of which can be a little be confusing, especially if you have no knowledge, experience or training (let alone mysterious “other qualities”) in this area.

Who can be a Competent Person?

In theory anyone could be a competent person, provided of course they meet the actual requirements.  To help you identify whether an existing member of your team would be suitable to fill this particular role you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have they had relevant training?  Generally speaking, they should have completed an IOSH-accredited course
  • Do they have any practical knowledge and experience?  It’s brilliant if they have attended a course, but theoretical knowledge is not going to be enough
  • Do they have the relevant skills?  Not only do they need the knowledge, but they will also be able to demonstrate that they can develop solutions (sometimes quite technical) to problems
  • Are they familiar with the business?  This means they should have knowledge of all relevant risk areas; for example, if you are a scaffolding company you would not expect your competent person to have no knowledge of how scaffolding is erected or used, or what potential hazards are associated with it

But none of my staff are suitable …

As a small business (and remember, it doesn’t matter if you employ 1 person or 10,000 people – you still need a competent person!)  it can be a bit of a minefield knowing who you should appoint. After all, chances are, your staff already have their hands full doing the things you need them to do on a daily basis, without having to learn something else on top! 

The good news then is that if you do not have a suitable member of staff who can act as your competent person you can access external help and advice.  In other words, you can outsource the role.  You might even want to consider this approach if you have a higher-risk business, where expert advice is going to be beneficial.

You can be prosecuted

It is important to be aware that failure to appoint a suitable competent person can result in prosecution.  Not appointing someone, or appointing the wrong person, is deemed to be a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations and can lead to fines, intervention by your own regulatory body and, depending on the severity of the situation, can even lead to a prison sentence.

Appointing a competent person is therefore not something you want to simply “get round to one day”.  If you want to get immediate advice, speak to the team at People Matters HR today.

Remember, we are People Matters because YOUR people matter.