25 Sep 2017

What is a "competent person" and how to find one?

Since we developed our tagging and checklist systems, perhaps the most frequently question we are asked is "Who can carry out the inspections?" to which are most frequent answer is "A competent person".

It is a phrase often seen in legislation & guidance and the HSE does give a definition of exactly what they consider a competent person to be. In short, it is "someone who has the necessary skills, experience and knowledge to manage health and safety."

Judith Hackitt (Chair of the HSE) states "The essence of competence is relevance to the workplace. What matters is that there is a proper focus on both the risks that occur most often and those with serious consequences. Competence is the ability for every director, manager and worker to recognise the risks in operational activities and then apply the right measures to control and manage those risks."

Of course the type of work and inherent dangers that it brings also have a factor in who you might deem to be competent. It's a common misconception that "anyone" can use a ladder safely, without the need for training, after all we use them at home often enough without going through a course on its safe use? Surely that makes me competent?

If you read through our previous blogs and search the internet for "ladder accidents" you will find an abundance of prosecutions, injuries and deaths resulting from falls from ladders. As a result we would always recommend that employees are trained in the safe use of the equipment they are expected to use - whether that is a ladder, forklift or nuclear submarine - this training should include providing them with the knowledge of what they need to check before using the equipment. Once armed with that knowledge and sufficient experience then they may well be deemed as competent and ready to start carrying out equipment checks for their own use or for their colleagues' equipment.

Providing your competent person with the tools to carry out these inspections, to monitor and record their findings is where Good to Go Safety can help. Our checklists will cover the main pre-use checks and act as a failsafe to ensure they are inspected - the tag provides a clear visual reminder and allows the findings to be displayed for all to see. Anybody walking past, or going to use, the equipment will be able to see the date and findings of the inspection and know if it is safe to use.

To find out more about our equipment inspection systems and how they can help to improve safety, reduce maintenance costs and comply with regulations please visit www.goodtogosafety.co.uk

There is a wealth of information available to read on the subject of competency on the HSE website: www.hse.gov.uk which includes downloads, looking at an employer’s responsibilities when using contractors to carry out work.

You may think that outsourcing work to a 'specialist' would exonerate you of all responsibility, should an incident occur during their watch, but in reality there is a need to work closely with your contractor and have an understanding of the work to be carried out - frequent communication is key - if something doesn't sound/look right then don't be afraid to question their intentions.

The importance of using a reliable and trustworthy company to carry out work on your behalf can not be ignored - it's not always suitable to simply go with the cheapest option. Looking at the various examples of 'dodgy scaffolding' littered across the internet - often erected by so-called professionals - it is easy to find reasons to research your intended contractor - we'd also advise using a company that is registered with an industry body such as FLTA, SEMA, PASMA, CISRS, The Ladder Association etc who can offer peace of mind that their members are adequately trained and competent.

I read this morning of a prosecution of two scaffold inspectors who had failed to carry out a thorough inspection of a scaffold before signing it off as safe to use. This resulted in a worker falling through a gap between the scaffolding and the building, resulting in serious injuries.

As individuals we must be able to trust the people that are telling us a piece of equipment is safe to use, knowing that they are competent to do so is critical to making that work. To read more about this latest prosecution visit: http://press.hse.gov.uk/2017.

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