Health and Safety Consultancy Services for SMEs in Birmingham, West Midlands and beyond

Do I really need a “Competent Person” on site?
Posted by David Cant on January 17, 2014

construction Health and Safety AdvisersCompetent Person Service

Do you really need a Competent Person on site? Well it really depends on what is going on in your workplace but, you probably don’t need one working full time on a particular project.

But you must seek competent advice for every project you undertake and you must appoint a competent person for your business.

What does this mean?

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, every employer must appoint at least one “competent person” to assist with health and safety management. These designated persons are then responsible for providing health and safety advice for every aspect of your business including site safety.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) definition of competence is a little vague, but according to Regulation 7 of the act;

Every employer shall, appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements imposed upon him under UK health and safety legislation.

The individuals appointed must have “sufficient training and experience or knowledge” to be able to provide practical advice and guidance to protect other employees and the general public. The persons involved must not only understand relevant UK health and safety legislation, but also how it applies to your business. The HSE suggests choosing existing employees for the role ahead of external agents.

More than simply nominating an existing employee

Choosing a competent person is more than simply nominating one of your existing employees however. Choosing a competent person is more than a box-ticking exercise – their actions and advice has major implications in the event of a health and safety breach or accident.

So although you may not need to have a competent person on each of your sites, your ideal person or persons you do choose should be able to demonstrate:

  • Relevant industry experience which shows they know what your business does and how it operates.
  • Evidence of appropriate health and safety training like an NEBOSH diploma.

Ideally you would expect your competent person to be a Chartered Member of Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (CMIOSH) and also OSHCR registered.

But it’s not quite that simple

For smaller businesses running multiple projects, balancing HSE requirements with all the other tasks that need to be done can be difficult. These demands may need a full-time employee to be managed properly – an unaffordable “luxury “ in the low-margin world of construction safety.

Training staff to ensure that they are competent at their core responsibilities makes perfect sense for the future profitability of your business. And providing basic health and safety training is also essential to protecting your workforce. However paying for an in-depth qualification like the NEBOSH diploma, or OSHCR registration may not be the most effective investment of your company’s resources.

Just to be clear

The fact is, although your business does not need a competent person on site, you must place a competent “competent person” in charge of construction health and safety. This person (or persons) are then responsible for providing accurate health and safety advice which is applied on site.

Hiring a full time health and safety expert can be expensive. Instead an affordable compromise needs to be found, such as the Competent Person Service from Veritas Consulting. This scheme provides the knowledge and experience your firm needs to make sensible health and safety provisions for your projects without hiring a full-time employee.


Director at Veritas Consulting. The SME's favourite go-to consultant for health and safety know-how. Bucket loads of experience. Fluent in practical advice. Solutionist with a brain you can pick.

You can find him across Social media - Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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  1. July 12, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    It is interesting to see how similar are certain questions in different countries.

    Despite that in Spain there are more detailed obligations to the companies regarding the OSH services, at the end the question goes to the same you have posted: who is a competent person to be in charge of the OSH duties (regardless the formal structure that the company sets up, internal or external staff).

  2. July 17, 2014 at 7:06 am

    i agree with you David, What do companies have in place in Spain?

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