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What is a “Competent Person”?

Safety documentation in the construction industry often refers to the phrase “Competent Person”, however there is much confusion surrounding what this phrase actually means, and what legal obligations it presents. 

In everyday life, the word “competent” simply means a person who is efficient and capable. So, one might assume that everyone on a worksite should be a “competent” person but, in construction, this term means so much more than being qualified or just good at your job.

Definition of a Competent Person in Construction

It is a legal obligation of the construction industry for workers to be designated as being competent at the tasks they perform, and, there are standards that must be met to deem someone as such. 

These standards can vary by industry. But the general scope is that the person must have the skills, experience and knowledge to conduct the task, be able to recognise health and safety hazards as well as have the knowledge and authority to correct those hazards. 

The Queensland Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 defines a Competent Person as: “a person who has acquired through training, qualification or experience the knowledge and skills to carry out the task”. 

It also provides definitions for particular cases. For example, in the Tower Crane Code of Practice 2017 for the purpose of conducting major inspections under Section 10.7, a Competent Person means “a person who either—  has the skills, qualifications, competence and experience to inspect the plant; and is registered under a law that provides for the registration of professional engineers”. 

How Can Employers Ensure Their Workers Are Competent? 

Employers are responsible for ensuring their workers are thoroughly evaluated to be competent, and, that they are given the power to correct hazards or otherwise know who can enforce changes.

At Falcon Cranes we ensure that our staff are competent by conducting thorough “Verification Of Competency” tests for the type of work they are required to perform.

As an example, our Tower Crane Operators are required to present a valid High Risk Work Licence for the type of crane they will operate, as well as demonstrate their ability to operate each function of the crane safely and efficiently prior to being sent to a job site. 

How does your business or workplace ensure its workers are competent? Let us know in the comments below!