According to an article by the publication Safety+Health, defining a competent person is not an easy as it may seem. An expert in the field will even admit “that there is confusion on what exactly the term ‘competent’ means and who qualifies.” So, why all this confusion?
Let’s see if we can sort it out. Below, we will take a closer look into what qualifications a competent person needs to meet, how the term is defined by the U.S. Department of Labor, and how our company deems a worker competent. What you may think of as an employee being competent at their job may not be the same as the OSHA standard, or the RFI standard for that matter.
What Is A Competent Person?
Occupational Safety and Health Association, commonly known as OSHA, defines a competent person 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.” It is through training and/or experience, that a competent person must:
- be knowledgeable of applicable standards
- be capable of identifying workplace hazards relating to the specific operation
- have the authority to correct them
Seems easy enough, but some standards, or even companies themselves, have even more specific requirements which must be met by the competent person.
Going Beyond The Definition
For work to meet the standards and values of our company, RFI has developed a rigorous tracking, training, and certification program to identify employees who are competent, certified, and authorized. We begin this process with a “Position Competency” assessment form. After hire, all new employees are evaluated to determine they are competent to perform their position which provides a starting base to determine further competency.
Although OSHA does require a competent person for specific work, like Excavation and Trenching and Confined Space, RFI goes above and beyond with our designations. We identify a competent person for each task assigned to a job description, like fence installation, equipment operation, fall protection/rigging, quality, risk management, and project management.
According to OSHA, each individual company is allowed to determine if a person is competent as long as they meet the requirements listed in their definition. RFI makes the determination based on the answers to the following questions:
- Has the employee taken a training course recently on the topic?
- Is the employee in a position of authority, such as management or foremen?
- Does the employee have an appropriate amount of experience in the field?
Our company’s definition of a competent person includes responsibilities that can range from simply signing forms to ensuring the stability of a trench before entering. This is where our systems come into play. Testing, training, 90-day job task performance reviews, and at least one year or more of experience is often required before the employee is considered a RFI competent person.
For example, an RFI concrete construction competent person requires one or more training courses on the topic of concrete construction and at least two years of experience, with observation by management during a 90-day period, to ensure knowledge and authority. Only after these terms are met will the worker be deemed RFI competent in concrete construction and responsible for stopping work if dangers are observed, performing process inspections, ensuring preventive safety measures, and mentoring fellow workers.
We believe that going beyond the OSHA standard by having systems in place is the safest program our company can provide our teams. By our workers being routinely evaluated for position competency, we have taken the industry standard and raised it even higher.