What Does OSHA Mean by “Competent Person” When it Comes to Fall Protection?
OSHA regulations are designed to ensure occupational safety and health. In the regulations relating to fall protection and other safety guidelines, OSHA requires industries to hire the services of a “Competent Person.”
The term has a unique meaning to professionals in industries like mining, manufacturing, and construction. In this article, we’ll delve into a competent person’s attributes and how they are relevant to preventing falls.
Who is a Competent Person?
According to OSHA, a competent person is defined as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
In simple terms, a competent person is a safety manager or officer in a company. This may include CEOs, COOs, or Facility managers. You may be this competent person within your organization, or you may be involved in hiring, supervising, or evaluating them in their role. To be an effective overseer of OSHA safety protocols and standards, the authorized officer should work in line with the company’s policies and guidelines to identify hazards and correct them.
Addressing Fall Safety: Important Traits of A Competent Person
Falls occur due to human and equipment-related failures. For a competent person, a comprehensive approach to safety starts with identifying and minimizing the risks of a fall. To do this successfully, you should possess these traits.
1.) Attention to Detail
From ensuring repair of a faulty swing gate to averting trench collapses, keen attention to detail enables you to quickly spot potential fall hazards and correct the issues. Areas of interest include:
- Fall-protection gear, for example, a safety lanyard, full-body harness, and their condition
- Identifying areas that need additional training
- Personal protective equipment
- Location of safety zones
2. Organizational Skills
In the event of a fall, companies should have a well-organized and pre-approved rescue plan in place. The plan should address:
- Details of anticipated falls
- How to rescue a victim
- Details of the rescue team
- Rescue equipment
3.) Professional Practical Expertise
A competent person should have hands-on experience in the following areas.
- Use of the different fall protection gear
- Conducting a before work inspection, and a first and final risk analysis
- Identifying and correcting hazards
- What to do or not do in the event of a fall
- Raising alarm
- Familiarity with the roof access policy, which details alternative escape routes especially for suspensions
4.) Familiarity with the Facility and Workers
OSHA expects companies to shoulder the responsibility of safety on work sites. A competent person’s familiarity with the facility serves to achieve the following.
- Understand the communication policies in place
- Communicate any updates on safety guidelines by OSHA
- Enforce compliance with OSHA safety measures especially with negligent employees
- Know the designated safety zones
- Explain the safety guidelines to employees and how to follow them
- Build trust with employees for easier implementation of precautionary guidelines
Steps to Becoming a Qualified Competent Person
A competent person can be found within your organization. But the law requires a certain procedure to make them a qualified competent person. The procedure includes the following steps.
- Employer recommends a suitable candidate.
- The recommendation is acknowledged and accepted.
- A qualified trainer is contacted and hired.
- The trainee chooses the most comfortable training method.
- The training area is identified and marked.
- Training aids, including manuals and visuals, are given to the trainee. Apart from identifying hazards, keen interest is paid to inspection, caring, use, and storage of equipment.
- The trainer gives instructions.
- An assessment test is given after training.
Note: if the trainer is not satisfied with the outcome of the training, retraining should be done.
How to Correct Fall Safety Hazards
Some of the common causes of falls in the workplace include:
- Weather hazards
- Wet and greasy floor
- Open cabinet and drawers
- Damaged handrails, safety gates, and stairs
- Exposed electric cables
1.) Proper Housekeeping Practices
Housekeeping practices and safety go hand in hand. Ensure that the work environment is clean and free from clutter. For an effective housekeeping system, plan ahead, assign duties, and implement a good program.
2.) Use of Safety Gates and Safety Lanyards
A safety lanyard is the most vital bit in securing a worker to their fall protection anchor. The employer should also install safety gates in line with OSHA’s recommendation. They are used to limit access in a restricted area and protect you against intruders. OSHA recommends using a swing gate as a measure to restrict movement too.
3.) Do Away With the Obstacles in Walkways and Aisles
Put proper policies and procedures for clearing and cleaning the floors and walkways. Keeping floors dry can help with fall protection too. Label restricted areas clearly and reinforce protection with safety gates.
4.) Proper Lighting
All areas in the workplace should have sufficient light for clearing visibility including every swing gate. Hallways, staircases, ramps, dock areas, and basements are some of the areas that should be well lit.
5.) Use of PPE
Ensure your employees are provided with the necessary protective gear before carrying out assigned work. PPEs include boots, goggles, a harness with safety lanyard, overalls, and gloves.
6.) Individual Character
Put measures in place to punish defiant employees. Training all your employees will go a long way to ensure they know that the rules are for their good.
7.) Constant training and retraining
Developers improve equipment constantly to promote efficiency and safety. Workers may need help learning to use a new lifeline system, safety lanyard, or something more complex. Hire the services of a professional trainer to educate the employees on the hazards the work environment presents.
A competent person gets the authority to inspect and correct hazards from employers. You may have to take them through classes and observe their fieldwork before you authorize them. These efforts help you to meet OSHA safety requirements. Still unsure? Enlist the services of a professional safety solutions provider for assistance with ensuring safety-compliance at your facility – the professional team of safety specialists is happy to help!