Competent Person


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Health and Safety Risk Assessments - What is a Competent Person?


Risk assessments need to be carried out by a competent person, refer to Reg 7(1) MH&SW 1999), however not every business has someone with the  knowledge, training, ability or even time to address this important subject methodically and thoroughly.  


The next question would probably be "do I need a consultant"? If the process being risk assessed represents a low risk and is not complex, then in the majority of cases the answer would be no, however, help maybe required where the process is more hazardous or complex and the competency of staff within the company to undertake a suitable and sufficient assessment simple does not exist. Competence to carry out a risk assessment is a subjective issue, the example quoted on the HSE website is "Just use your common sense: you don't need an electrician to re-wire a plug, but most people would need one to re-wire their house. It's the same with risk assessments."  However, to help your decision there is much free advice available for those wishing to manage their own health and safety management systems, you will find many useful links and guides throughout this QHSE guide.  Those wishing further advice on the services we provide please feel free to enquire.


Risk Assessment Duties: Safety Professional or Operative


Who is best employed to undertake company risk assessments, a health and safety professional or an operative familiar and trained in the process being examined?  The optimal method would be both, with the safety professional being guided through the work activity by the operative.  Large to medium-size businesses will be able to afford to employ Health and Safety professionals, or at least make H&S the responsibility of a defined manager, other companies my outsource the work to consultants.  However, this does not mean businesses without a health and safety professional cannot undertake risk assessment activities.  Businesses need to provide operatives with the right training, techniques and tools to be able to undertake risk assessments within their area of expertise i.e. make them competent.


It should be remembered that the aim of conducting risk assessments is not to produce well designed, well written, clear and legible assessments if all they do is sit in a filing cabinet only to be produced at such times as accident investigations an or audits.


Risk assessments need to be understood by all those involved in the activity and process. Risk assessments are not just a paperwork exercise, they are a proactive means of managing safety. It should be noted that where it is considered that the risk of harm is insignificant, there is not a requirement to carry out a documented risk assessment.

However, it is still good practice to have a task inventory that lists all activities, even those where the risk is considered to low to warrant further and more detailed assessing.

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Help file v1.175.0542 : Copyright © 2022 Brian G. Welch MSc(QHSE), NVQ4(OH&S), CMIOSH - Supported by Website On Safe Lines