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Aug232019

HOW COMPETENT IS YOUR COMPETENT PERSON?

How many safety trained staff?

You’ve heard that you must have at least one member of staff who holds formal health and safety qualifications. Is this really the case, or just another myth?

Legal requirement?

Since the Health & Safety Offences Act 2008 came into force, you now need at least one member of staff to have specific responsibility for managing health and safety issues. You must ensure that whoever takes on this role has the appropriate qualifications and experience to make them competent to do it.

The Act did not introduce any new duty. However, it’s made it easier for businesses and individuals to be prosecuted if a breach of the law is identified. It has also increased the penalties courts can impose - including making a custodial sentence a real possibility for those who have committed gross breaches. This means it’s now more important than ever to ensure your business is complying with health and safety legislation.

This is nothing new

The reason that there is no new duty for employers to seek competent advice is because it already exists. The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) state:

“Employers shall appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions.”

Who should do this?

It depends on your business. The MHSWR allow every employer to identify the best way to achieve this. For some - usually larger, high-risk businesses - it will mean that a full-time health and safety professional(s) should be used.

Your decision as to how you will comply with this legal duty should be formally discussed and recorded. The best place to do this is at a board meeting. Your choice should be recorded in the meeting minutes.

What qualifications?

Unfortunately, this isn’t identified in the legislation, nor is there anything in official guidance documents published by the HSE. All you’ll get from the HSE is general advice such as ensuring that whoever you employ has the appropriate skills and knowledge to make them competent. Nowhere does it state that those managing safety must have “X” qualifications and “Y” experience.

Anyone you use (either your own staff or a consultant) must know your business or the sector you operate in, and they must have a good understanding of health and safety legislation. If they don’t have both, then it should be assumed that they will not be able to provide meaningful and thorough advice.

Who would be the most suitable candidate for the role? 

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