Health and Safety Competent Person


Health and Safety Competent Person

Our Health and Safety consultants can act as your “competent” health and safety person fulfilling the requirement of Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

What is meant by `Competent Person’

Good practice in workplace health and safety requires a mixture of technical and legal proficiency, ranging from skills which can be learnt by virtually anyone, through to the set of very high-order knowledge, experience, judgement and skills which is associated with the term ‘acknowledged expert’.

In health and safety law, people with these attributes are ‘competent persons’, however this information is of little practical use. It is vital to identify the appropriate level of competency that is required for each set of circumstances – what level of expertise is actually required? This is Where our Health and Safety advisor’s can help.

In addition, there is an organisational element, indicating that undertakings need to be alert to the possibility that their current in-house expertise is insufficient for the purpose in mind, and that advice and guidance should be sought from an external agency, such as Arinite.

Legal Requirements

Competence is a term used frequently in reference to organisational arrangements for health and safety management. More specifically, it is a requirement of the ‘Management of health and safety at work regulations 1999’. Regulation 7 requires employers to appoint one or more competent person(s) to assist them in meeting their legal obligations. The regulations, the ‘Approved Code of Practice L21’, and guidance on the subject do not prescribe any specific level of training, qualification, or experience as necessary to fulfil this role. Consequently, interpretation of the term varies widely between and even within organisations.

Although ‘competence’ is a confusing and ambiguous concept to most employers, it can be taken to mean a person with sufficient training, experience, or knowledge together with other personal qualities to properly assist the employer to undertake measures required to comply with health and safety legislation.

Consultants or in-house expertise?

The question that arises in practice is whether or not external contractors or consultants ought to be used to assist the employer to meet the requirements of health and safety legislation. However, it should be noted that there cannot be any real self-regulating independence if the person carrying out risk assessments is on the payroll of the organisation being regulated.

The term ‘competent person’ has a wide-ranging meaning, dependent on the type of industry the organisation works in. It also has implications for the appointment of Directors, Managers, and other specific job functions and is applicable to some degree at all levels in an organisation.

Even potentially low risk environments may have a requirement for a competent person – for example, an office-based business with a water-cooling tower where there may be a risk of legionella bacteria growth. Certain high-risk organisations have specific competent person requirements, for example in radiation protection, or lifting operations. The Arinite Health and Safety advisor will have industry specific knowledge in the relevent area of risk and therefore will be “competent” to take responsibility.

Competence of senior management

The roles and personal responsibility of Chief Executive Officers, Directors and Board members and their chairpersons are increasingly being scrutinised by both stakeholders and the enforcing authorities.

Most definitions of ‘corporate social responsibility’ imply companies should voluntarily integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with their external stakeholders – banks, shareholders, and the local communities where they operate. This operates at the level of personal survival (i.e., avoidance of legal sanctions on individuals) and at the more desirable level of improving business performance.

Competence at Chief Executive and Board level includes acknowledgement of the risks created by the organisation, and provision of necessary resources to ensure that the risks are eliminated or minimised so far as reasonably practicable. These resources may include training, finance, and investment in safer processes. However, what this also means is that training for a company’s Chief Executive, Directors and Board members (executive or otherwise) is an important feature of Senior Management competence.

Health and Safety Competence

The HSE has issued considerable guidance on this subject in its online document, ‘Outline map on competence, training and certification’. This is in direct response to enquiries from a wide-range of organisations regarding information on what is a competent person. While some of the information requires updating, it can be used as a benchmark for all organisations to compare themselves against with regard to their own ‘competent persons’.

The HSE guidance has four main headings:

  • General health and safety
  • Health hazards
  • Safety hazards
  • Specific hazards.

The expertise of Arinite’s Health and Safety advisor’s enables them to act as your “competent person” to ensure that you fully meet the legal requirement.

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