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09th October 2016

The ‘Competent Person’ – Health & Safety

Whilst undertaking a recent compliance review audit I was asked the meaning of the word ‘competent person’. This word is often seen and heard in health and safety documentation and training and can be difficult to understand.

A competent person is someone with the right balance of qualifications, experience and knowledge to complete a task safely. There needs to be a balance within all three areas and if one element is taken away it can and will be argued that the person is not competent. This is noted in the following case:

A hospice has been sentenced after a patient died of Legionnaires’ disease and a worker suffered life changing effects as a result of contracting legionnaires disease.

The HSE inspector after the hearing said: “The risks of legionella are well known in the healthcare industry. The Hospice had implemented some measures in an attempt to control legionella. However, they failed to appoint a competent person to manage the risk of legionella in the Hospice’s hot and cold water system”. HSE

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations refer to a competent person – ‘A person shall be regarded as competent where he has sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities’. HSE

There are many different ways to ensure personnel are competent in the role they undertake. Some of the following guidance will support ensuring that management are confident that personnel are competent in working safely in their role.


  • Ensure that candidates applying for a role can demonstrate their experience through their CV and references
  • New appointees may need a period of supervision and may need to demonstrate knowledge through carrying out a work activity where it is being monitored, checked and sign off by an experiences mentor. An example could be familiarisation training of new equipment where the attendee must use the equipment three times under supervision before being signed off as competent
  • When personnel change roles, ensure that they are given additional required training for the new position
  • Ensure there is a skills and training matrix that records the instruction and training that personnel have undertaken and continue to undertake to remain competent in their role
  • Some work activities will require specific mandatory training which is a legal requirement. Carry out a review to ensure the business have identified those roles where mandatory training is required
  • Carry out due diligence on all contractors and self-employed personnel to ensure they are competent for the role they undertake. They will need to supply certificates of training for the work they undertake. Where required, check that they are part of an appropriate organisation. For example, a contractor who will carry out gas works on your premises, must be registered with Gas Safe and should be required to show a Gas Safe Registered ID Card.


*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Sally Beck

QCS Expert Health and Safety Contributor

Sally is a multi skilled Chartered Health and Safety Practitioner with extensive experience of health, safety, quality and environmental consulting within the different industry sectors. She is also a Registered Nurse with previous nursing experience in both the private sector and the National Health Services. With extensive experience of CQC standards she has provided support and advice in implementing and managing health and safety.

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