Employers have a duty to ensure that any person who carries out a task, as part of their employment, is competent. If a person is being trained, a competent person must supervise that person until they are deemed competent, i.e. can carry out their work effectively and without putting anybody at risk of harm, injury or disease.
This duty also extends to people who employ contractors. A duty holder must be able to show that their organisation has done enough to reassure itself that the contractors engaged are competent.
Persons deemed competent have many attributes.
In our industry (Legionella risk assessment, water hygiene and water treatment including steam) they must also have the ability to communicate well.
The qualities we look for in deciding that people are competent (as defined above) include that they:
Competence is recognised in a practical way. This means that on-the-job assessment is required in order to show that the employee has the ability to work in a safe manner.
Competence cannot be assessed in the classroom. While training is part of being competent, that training does not have to be classroom training. On-the-job training can be appropriate, though classroom training will often reinforce knowledge gained on the job. There are many competent people who work effectively and safely and have no formal qualifications whatsoever. It would be most unusual, however, that consultants, risk assessors, etc., will have no formal qualifications. Many will be professional people (most commonly scientists and engineers). They may be members of professional bodies, such as The Water Management Society, or even learned associations such as The Royal Society of Chemistry. All professionals, however, will still need to be able to show they are able to work safely and effectively, as even the highest qualifications, do not confirm competence.
In order to show competence, or that competent people or contractors are being employed, a formal strategy must be adopted. This will vary depending on whether the person is a contractor, a direct employee or self-employed.
Similarly, a contractor may need to be able to prove that their employees undertaking the work are competent, as the client should not be allowing contractors and sub-contractors to carry out work on their behalf if they believe them to be incompetent. They have a duty only to employ competent contractors.
The basic requirements will include:
Finally, it is necessary to be able to show that every person employed is competent to do the job they have been employed to do. Even though all of the above has been done, the person may be involved in a lost time accident (an event that results in time taken off work to recover) and there may be a need to be able to prove that everything practicable was done to show the person was competent. This means records of actions and observations must be in place. Those records need to be kept up to date, so be prepared to readdress all these aspects on a regular basis.