OSHA Basics: What Is an OSHA Competent Person?


OSHA Basics-Competent Person Image

If you're new to safety, you may wonder what OSHA means by the phrase competent person.

Or even how one becomes an OSHA competent person.

In this article, we're going to give you the straight skinny.

We'll start by giving you the general definition of the phrase that OSHA provides in 1926.32(f). But that's not the full story, because some standards make additional requirements about competent persons. And so we'll provide some links to help you find those standards. And finally, we'll give you some more links for related OSHA Fact Sheets, e-Tools, Quick Cards, and more.

This will give you any and all information you need about competent persons and the way OSHA refers to it in regulations.

This is another of our OSHA Basics series of articles in which we explain 101-level OSHA topics. For more articles like this one, see the list at the bottom.

So what does OSHA mean when they're talking about a "competent person?" Let's take a look.

Definition: Competent Person (OSHA)

In 1926.32(f), 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." As you probably know, 1926 is the set of OSHA regulations for the Construction industry. There is no equivalent definition for the phrase competent persons in 1910.2, the definitions at the beginning of the OSHA General Industry regulations, but OSHA seems to use the 1926 definition universally throughout their materials. Anyone have some thoughts or additional comments on that? I'd be curious.

On OSHA's Safety and Health Topics page dedicated to competent persons, OSHA includes the definition from 1926 above. But in addition, they add this description: "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."

Standards With Additional Specific Requirements to Be Met By Competent Person

If you notice that definition just above, OSHA mentions that some standards include additional specific requirements a person has to meet as a competent person.

OSHA's been kind enough to provide a list of those for you. Just click the following link for a list of the OSHA standards that use the phrase competent person.

Please note the link above also takes you to some additional information OSHA has pulled together about mentions of competent persons in:

  • Preambles to final rules
  • Directives
  • Standard interpretations

Full disclosure: We started copying all those links and writing them down in this post, but it was maddeningly boring and we didn't seem to be providing any value to you that OSHA didn't already provide in their list. So, we hope you don't hold it against us that we quit and gave up. Hats off to someone at OSHA for putting a lot of work into that list. 🙂

Additional OSHA Documents or Resources Referring to Competent Persons

OSHA has also provided a list with links to publications, e-tools, and similar resources that include additional information about competent persons as mentioned in specific regulations or work scenarios. We've provided those for you here.

More Info from OSHA about Competent Persons

You may also want to check out this OSHA Safety and Health Topics webpage on Competent Persons.

Your Experiences: Are You an OSHA Competent Person?

So what about you? What are your experiences? Are you an OSHA competent person? If so, in what work context?

Or, if you're an employer, how difficult is it for you to identify and designated your competent persons? What issues are involved?

If you've got something to share, the comments section below is waiting for you.

More OSHA Basics Articles

Here are some more FYIs about OSHA to help you out:

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