Responsibilities of a Competent Person in Scaffolding and Confined Space Operations

In the world of safety and health, a “competent person” is designated to ensure the well-being of employees and workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) defines a competent person 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” (29 CFR 1926.450).

The regulatory standards created across industries by OSHA often refer to “the duties of a competent person” and assign them specific responsibilities. While these responsibilities may differ, the underlying role of a competent person is to protect the health and safety of employees at a worksite by developing and implementing appropriate safety and health processes and plans as and when required. 

Our previous article dealt with the responsibilities of a competent person as specified in OSHA’s Excavations and Fall Protection Standards. This article will review and summarize the responsibilities of a competent person as applicable in OSHA’s Scaffolds and Confined Spaces Standards.

The Role of the Competent Person for Scaffolding Operations

OSHA has specified responsibilities for a competent person in its 29 CFR 1926 Subpart L – Scaffolds Standard. According to this Standard, a competent person is responsible for:

Selecting and directing employees who erect, dismantle, move, alter, and inspect scaffolds.

  • Training employees working on scaffolding to recognize hazards associated with tasks such as erecting, dismantling, moving, adjusting, and inspecting scaffolds.
  • Determining the safety of employees working on scaffolds during unfavorable weather conditions such as strong winds, storms, or heavy snowfall.
  • Ensuring employees working on scaffolding have access to a personal fall arrest system or wind screens during bad weather.
  • Making sure the scaffolds’ structural integrity is maintained when components from different manufacturers are used together.
  • Determining whether galvanic action has affected the capacity of scaffolds when components made from different metals are used together.

Additionally, a competent person is responsible for inspecting scaffolds and scaffold components for visible defects at various times. Such inspections must be mainly conducted:

  1. Before every work shift, and 
  2. After any incident that could impact the reliability or structural integrity of the scaffold. 

In case of scaffolds are damaged or any scaffold breakdown occurs, a competent person must be given the authority to promptly take any and all necessary corrective actions.

Worker Training When Working in and around Scaffolds

To obtain more details about OSHA’s Scaffolding Standards and be prepared to safely work on scaffolding, enroll employees in our OSHA Scaffolding Safety Training today! We offer corporate rates and group discounts. Our training can be taken online at any time, or we can arrange to conduct onsite or virtual training with an experienced instructor at a location of your choice. Contact us for more details.