The OSHA Definition of Competent vs Qualified vs Certified vs Designated Persons – Contractors Must Learn The Language

Rules and Laws always come with language and definitions that may not be totally in sync with our own definition and understanding of the same words.

Earlier we discussed that in forming your safety committee you wanted to pick leaders who were knowledgeable about safety and in identifying those employees you had certain ideas in mind of what knowledge, training and skills would look like.

In your mind you are thinking of words like competent and qualified. You may even have employees that hold certain OSHA certifications. You are on the right path but it might be interesting to understand OSHA’s definition of these descriptions. They might be different than yours. Here’s what OSHA says:

Competent Person:
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.

This sounds reasonable until we read further and find this statement: “There are currently no specific standards regarding competent persons.”  WHAT?? No standards – you’ve got standards for everything else! What’s The Catch?

Qualified Person (29 CFR 1926.32(m)):
“Qualified” means one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project and can be recognized as a Qualified Person.

Designated Person”:
The term “Designated” personnel means employees selected or assigned by the employer or the employer’s representative as being qualified to perform specific duties.

Notice the common thread here? Be it Competent, Qualified or Designated everything revolves around – Knowledge Gained by Safety Training.

Many standards promulgated by OSHA explicitly require you to train your employees in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to employees who are “certified,” “competent,” or “qualified” – meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace.

See, OSHA’s belief is that training is an essential part of your safety and health program for protecting workers from injuries and illnesses. This philosophy is further proven by the fact that statistics show those who are new on the job have a higher rate of accidents and injuries than more experienced workers.

The final thought here is that Safety Training in the how to properly and safely execute each specific job task is time and money well spent and employers should regard it as an investment rather than an expense. An effective program of safety and health training for workers will absolutely result in fewer injuries and illnesses, better morale, lower insurance premiums, and increased production and profitability.

This is the fourth of a series of article published by Kent Leighton and The FlatRock Group to help companies understand the importance of Safety in their Construction Operations and how simple it is to create and deploy a successful OSHA Compliant Safety Program.

© 2015 The FlatRock Group All Rights Reserved

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About the author

Kent Leighton, Founder of The Flat Rock Group, has more than 40 years of experience in the Construction and Development Industry. Having owned a successful midsize General Contracting firm he understands the opportunities and trials of running a successful business enterprise. His passion is sharing his victories and his scars with leaders and managers to help them grow and prosper.