H&S for Businesses: Appointing a "Competent Person"
When it comes to business, we would hope that all persons involved are competent, i.e. that they have the skills, ability and knowledge to do their job properly. In terms of Health & Safety, however, a "Competent Person" has a broader, legal definition. This is laid out in the HSE Guidelines and requires training and experience for full competence.
Anyone running a business must be aware of the Health & Safety regulations, and the precautions that must be taken to comply with the law. It doesn't necessarily follow that anyone within your business has the necessary knowledge, let alone the training and experience, to make sure these are carried out. H&S can, in some circumstances, be blindingly obvious. However, it can also involve quite complex procedures if you're dealing, for example, with toxic or flammable substances.
The Competent Person or Persons appointed for your business must know the necessary H&S regulations, as well as the specifics associated with the type of business you conduct. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. Your workers' safety depends on them. So does that of your customers, and anyone who has reason to visit your premises, or is affected by your actions. If no such person exists in your organisation, the law allows for the appointment of an external authority to fulfil these obligations. This is known as Competent Persons Assistance
A Competent Person is one who has been trained to identify safety hazards, or any hazards which might be predicted to arise from existing circumstances. This applies not only to the physical working environment, but also to the practices and procedures undertaken by your employees. A Competent Person must also have the knowledge and authorisation to remedy any dangerous situations immediately, and eliminate all safety hazards.
A Competent Person is required by law, and you can train someone in your organisation for the role. Courses are available, such as those offered by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). However, this still doesn't provide real-world experience. That is only gained by spending considerable time on the job, examining all situations and procedures. Experience teaches people how to ensure you're in compliance, and what to do if you aren't.
While this is going on, however, you're still officially lacking a Competent Person. You might think that doesn't matter, but it does. Article 7 of The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 is very clear. It stipulates that you must "appoint one or more competent persons" to assist in compliance with your H&S obligations. Criminal proceedings may be taken against you if you contravene this law, so it's essential that you comply.
To be absolutely sure of legal compliance, and secure against prosecution, many people choose Competent Persons Assistance. This is a service offered by an independent company such as WSS. Our experienced personnel have the training and knowledge to assist you. By choosing WSS, you can be sure that your business will always be in full compliance with the law - and that your employees will be safe and healthy in the workplace.