Appointing a Competent Person

As an employer, you must appoint a competent person or people to help you meet your health and safety legal duties.  Specifically, regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to appoint one or more competent persons to assist on health and safety measures required to comply with statutory duties. In this article we look at the things to consider before appointing a Competent Person.

What a Competent Person is Required to do

The Competent Person should have the skills, knowledge and experience to be able to recognise hazards in your business and help you put sensible controls in place to protect workers and others from harm.  If more than one person is appointed then there must also be adequate arrangements in place for cooperation between them.  Such arrangements could include communications or division or responsibilities.

Qualifications and Training

The legislation does not set out specific formal qualifications or training that a Competent Person must have.  However, most employers will find it beneficial to provide some training and instruction to Competent Persons who are appointed.

Appointing a competent person
Employers are required to appoint a Competent Person

Who can be Appointed a Competent Person

There is plenty of scope for appointing a Competent Person under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.  As a business owner, you can appoint yourself, one or more of your employees or even someone outside of your organisation.  Particularly in low risk, office-based businesses, managing health and safety is not complicated and you can do it yourself with the help of your workers.  Often you and your employees will know your workplace environment best as well as the risks associated with it.  If there is a suitable Competent Person within your business, then you should appoint them.  However, where you do not have anyone in the business with the expertise, experience and training to carry out the role, you can look at external appointments such as consultants.

Using a Consultant or Adviser

If your business or organisation does not have the competence to manage health and safety in-house, for example, if it is large, complex or high risk, you can get help from a consultant or adviser.  However, it should be noted that as the employer, managing health and safety will still be your legal duty.

If you use a consultant or adviser from outside your business you should make sure they are competent, suitable and that you will get the help you need.  In assessing a consultant’s competency and suitability you should make sure they:

  • have evidence of relevant training and knowledge, such as formal qualifications or practical experience of providing advice in your industry or area of work, and
  • are adequately insured.

Before appointing a consultant to help you with health and safety management, discuss with them the areas where you require assistance so that it is clear what is required.  You may just require assistance for a specific, one-off piece of work or project.  Alternatively, you may require assistance on an on-going basis across the whole business or a section of it. In seeking advice from a consultant ensure that it is:

  • specific to the risks in your workplace – generic advice often fails to identify and control key risks, and it can be difficult to identify risks unless they visit your workplace,
  • based on their knowledge and experience of your industry and processes,
  • concentrated on practical action to control significant risks and does not over-respond to trivial risks
  • recommending control measures that are reasonably practicable, and
  • not generating paperwork for the sake of it.

The consultant should clearly explain the key risks and controls which they recommend and why.  As an employer you should understand the reasons for the recommendations and, if you feel there are more practical options which have not been considered, you should discuss these with the consultant.

In considering the recommendations above before appointing a Competent Person, employers should get the help and assistance they need to meet their health and safety duties.

If you require health and safety advice and support for your business, please contact one of our team.

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