What is a Competent Person?

The definitions of a competent person vary slightly between Fed Osha and Cal Osha.  Fed Osha defines the competent person as an “individual who by way of training and or experience is knowledgeable of applicable standards, is capable of identifying workplace hazards relating to the specific operation, is designated by the employer and has the authority to take appropriate action”.  Cal Osha defines a competent person as “a person who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them”.  While not written, Cal Osha shares the requirement that the competent person must have the necessary training and experience related to the function.  

 To put it simply, the competent person has the training and experience to identify hazards associated with a particular task and to prevent accidents.  It’s important to understand that the competent person has to identify hazards, has the authority to take corrective actions to prevent the hazard and it is their responsibility to do so. 

A competent person does not have to be a registered professional engineer (P.E.).  P.E.’s are involved in the design of the systems (i.e. fall protection, scaffolding, excavation) when required by regulations.  The competent person must understand the design and implement it safely in the field. 

Of utmost importance to companies is to insure that whomever they deem as competent persons must have the knowledge, training, and experience in the job function.  In essence, they are your person in the field making decisions in ‘hazardous’ situations effecting you other employees as well as other company’s employees that may be working in close proximity. 

While not in every case, when Osha walks on to a site and identifies a function requiring a competent person, they will ask the competent person to identify themselves and will begin asking questions.  At that point, they will determine not only if the work follows the regulations, they will determine if the competent person truly is competent. If not, Cal Osha can issue citations addressing the work as well as the competent person.  

Below are some functions requiring competent persons (this is not an exhaustive list, just those that we frequently encounter at EWS):

  • Scaffolding
  • Excavation
  • Fall Protection
  • Demolition
  • Crane Operation
  • Materials Rigging

Please email us at safety@ewspros.com for specific requirements and recommendations regarding competent people in the above classifications. As always, please don’t hesitate to ask any questions.

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