Who is classed as ‘competent’?

In the context of health & safety, ‘competency’ is defined as

“The combination of training, skills, experience and knowledge that a person has and their ability to apply them to perform a task safely. Other factors, such as attitude and physical ability, can also affect someone’s competence. – Health & Safety Executive

What this means is that a person is capable of safely completing the job assigned to them.

An obvious example is that you shouldn’t ask the office intern to quickly do some welding just because they say they can give it a go. Welding requires training & experience that an office intern simply isn’t going to have and the chances of an accident are greatly increased through their inexperience; the risk of serious injury to themselves and others is very high.

Another example would be a situation where a carpenter from the workshop has been told they are in charge of managing health & safety for a small exhibition stand build. They may be very experienced at building exhibition stands but without the relevant training, they may not be capable of ensuring the work is safely carried out in accordance to the company risk assessment & method statements.

In both cases, you should consider how you can prove that someone is competent to do the job you’ve assigned to them. In the first example, your office intern should complete a recognised training qualification in welding before they are allowed near a welding torch. You may then use that qualification as proof that they are competent to be doing that work.

In the same manner, a carpenter who is in charge of managing onsite health and safety needs to have been trained how to do so, either via an internal training process or via a recognised health & safety qualification like an IOSH Managing Safely certificate.

Training and qualification records need to be kept for all of your staff as part of your competency records.

Am I competent enough to write a safety plan?

‘The essence of competence is relevance to the workplace. What matters is that there is a proper focus on both the risks that occur most often and those with serious consequences.

Competence is the ability for every director, manager and worker to recognise the risks in operational activities and then apply the right measures to control and manage those risks.’ – Judith Hackitt, Health & Safety Executive Chair

You need to ensure that you are satisfied that you have the right combination of skills, knowledge & training proportional to the task you are undertaking.

For example, if you are planning on writing a safety plan for a major 10,000 person capacity music festival and you have no formal safety training or previous experience then you are probably over reaching your competency level and there is a risk that the plan will be insufficient for the event.

However if you have been involved in the management of a small music event for a number of years and understand the processes for how the different elements of a festival is built and managed then you probably have enough experience and skills to attempt writing a safety plan for that event.

If you don’t have any formal training then you might consider employing a health & safety advisor to review your safety plan, or take a course like the IOSH Managing Safety for the Exhibition & Events industry to train you in the basics of health & safety management.

Managing Contractors

For information on ensuring contractor competency, visit this article