Definition of a competent person

Competent Person’ – the Fire Safety Order clearly states that there are two means by which competent persons might be identified. They must have both ‘sufficient training and experience’ or alternatively he must possess ‘knowledge and other qualities’, which will in both cases, enable him to properly carry out the task at hand.

The nature of ‘competent person’ is clearly associated with ‘competence’. The qualities present in the person must be akin to those expected of any person in that profession, but will by definition be limited by training, experience, knowledge or other qualities; in accordance with the complexity of the task at hand. It follows that as a task increases in complexity, so the expected ability of the competent person will also increase.

Displaying an awareness of the requirements does not inherently meet the requirements of the role. When relevant competencies are absent, it shows in the end result and this, as the recent case [Lockwood] shows, is proof enough for the courts.

The guidance associated with the [Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999] makes it clear that the level of knowledge and experience involved must be tied to the complexity of the problems to be tackled.” Whatever the level of ability, the competent person must be able to identify a problem when he sees it and must be suitably able to assess the relative importance of that defect in relation to the safety systems in place to satisfy the requirements of law and the premises.

This person should be sufficiently familiar with relevant codes and standards (through experiential or formal learning, underpinning knowledge and an ability, when called upon to answer relevant questions) to be able to deal with the matter at hand.