Who is a “Competent Person” as defined by OSHA?
Alright. We get enough questions about this that it’s time to clear up the big mystery: what is a “Competent Person” and how does OSHA define “Competent Person”?
It's not a certification. It's not a card you carry.
Officially: an OSHA "competent person" is defined as:
- "one 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 authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them," [29 CFR 1926.32(f)]."
- "By way of training and/or experience, a competent person is knowledgeable of applicable standards, is capable of identifying workplace hazards relating to the specific operation, and has the authority to correct them. Some standards add additional specific requirements which must be met by the competent person."
There’s good reason for the confusion; the term "Competent Person" is used in many OSHA standards and documents, yet there are currently no specific standards regarding competent persons: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/competentperson/
So OSHA uses the term but has no specific standard to provide insight into ‘who is’ or ‘how to’ obtain the designation.
In other words, it’s a vague combination of experience and know-how arbitrarily assigned by OSHA, along with agency or accountability; if a hazard is recognized, the “competent person” can take action to mitigate it.
A “competent person” is an employee who is able to recognize hazards associated with a particular task, and has the ability to mitigate those hazards—it’s that simple.
Many OSHA construction standards require someone onsite—such as a foreman, supervisor or other employee—to be designated as a competent person.