"Competent Person" is a term found throughout the OSHA construction regulations. The generic definition of a Competent Person found in the OSHA construction standards is "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".
Therefore, a competent person must have training and experience to be knowledgeable of applicable OSHA standards, performs inspections to identify workplace hazards, and is authorized by the employer to take measures to protect workers until the hazards are either eliminated or suitably controlled. However, the specific knowledge and skills needed to be a competent person can vary significantly, depending on which OSHA standard you are reading.
In the general safety and health provisions in Subpart C of the OSHA construction rules, OSHA requires employers to ". . . provide for frequent and regular inspections of the job sites, materials, and equipment to be made by competent persons designated by the employers." On some job sites, this might be handled by having an experienced foreman, supervisor, or safety rep who is designated as a competent person take an OSHA 30 hour training course in construction standards to supplement their knowledge of the OSHA standards and potential hazards on the job.
On the other hand, some OSHA standards have very specific requirements for a competent person. For example, in OSHA's Excavation standards found in Subpart P of the construction regulations, OSHA requires a competent person to "perform daily inspections of excavations, the adjacent areas, and protective systems . . . for evidence of a situation that could result in possible cave-ins, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions. An inspection shall be conducted by the competent person prior to the start of work and as needed throughout the shift. Inspections shall also be made after every rainstorm or other hazard increasing occurrence." This obviously requires a competent person with trenching and excavation experience and who, most likely, has received in-depth training on how to understand and implement the OSHA excavation standards.
Keep in mind that a competent person for an excavation site would not necessarily be qualified to be the competent person overseeing the installation of a fall arrest system . . . , and visa-versa. So the employer must exercise care when designating someone to be their competent person.
OSHA Training Services offers Excavation Competent Person Training and OSHA 30 Hour Construction Training for companies located anywhere in the United States who have a group needing either class. We also provide training classes for companies wanting to cover the new OSHA Confined Spaces for Construction Standards just issued Subpart AA in CFR 1926. You can even incorporate the excavation competent person class into the OSHA 30-hour construction course if you want!
You can get more information about the OSHA training classes we offer for competent persons by clicking the tabs appearing on the navigation bar at the upper left side of this page.