OSHA standards and the ‘competent person’

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Who qualifies?

A competent person, according to OSHA, is “capable of detecting existing and predictable dangers in the workplace or working conditions that are unclean, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authority to take quick remedial action to eliminate them.” A competent individual must also be familiar with OSHA guidelines and be able to recognise hazards associated with a particular operation. Many construction and maritime industry standards, as well as various gear certifications and four subparts of the general industry standards, all require the presence of a competent person. Other particular requirements for a competent individual can be found in some standards.

Authority and knowledge

Some employers mistakenly believe that a competent individual is just the most senior person on a jobsite, but Fairfax argues it’s more complicated than that. Kevin Cannon, the Associated General Contractors of America’s head of safety and health services and chair of OSHA’s Advisory Committee on Construction Safety and Health, stated, “They have to have the authority to make the required modifications.” “A person cannot be regarded competent unless they possess that authority.” Demonstrating knowledge, such as the ability to recognise risks, is another necessity. As a result, OSHA does not limit a competent person’s qualifications to education or training. According to Peter Lasavage, a former OSHA compliance officer and founder/president of the consulting business Lighthouse Safety LLC, jobsite circumstances are one apparent sign of this understanding. Lasavage would occasionally undertake pre-inspection surveillance of job sites throughout his stint at the agency. If he noticed workers climbing ladders without keeping three points of contact or “employees working from scaffolds that have been unlawfully erected,” those are red flags that a business may not have a competent – or at the very least ineffective – person on the job.

‘Culture, attitude and behavior’

Lasavage stated he would examine “the culture, attitude, and behaviour” during his surveillance or when he initially arrived at a job site. Is the competent individual in charge of supervising other employees and resolving unsafe behaviours? Do the personnel appear to have received adequate training? “The attitudes of the competent person should nurture safety,” he stated. “The competent individual should provide an example for others to follow. If the competent person demonstrates a true concern for everyone’s safety at the end of the shift, the workers will usually share that genuine concern for one another’s safety. Employers should inform their staff who the competent person for a certain area/subject matter is (fall protection, scaffolds, etc.). Employers may face problems, according to Cannon, if an OSHA inspector came to their jobsite, asked for the competent individual, and was told, “I don’t know.” An employer may also require someone who is knowledgeable in multiple fields. If a roofing company, for example, has a competent person in fall prevention but also utilises scaffolds, it will also need a competent person in that area. If an employee fits the standards, he or she can be designated as a competent person for various issues. That implies businesses must learn about and anticipate all of the areas and times when a competent worker may be required.

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