Frequently Asked Questions

Many types of professions require people to obtain certification, including forklift operators, confined space workers, construction employees, and soil excavation personnel. OSHA regulations generally outline the types of training allowed and in some cases the content necessary for a particular requirement.

In rare exceptions, the “certification” of an employee falls on the employer. The terms “qualified”, “authorized” and “competent” are often used throughout OSHA writings, standards and regulations; these all have slightly different contexts and meanings.

Throughout OSHA there will be a statement that reads something like this: The EMPLOYER shall certify that each employee, operator, entrant, or user shall receive training as specified in paragraph ( ). The certification shall include the name of the employee, the date of the training, the date of the evaluation, and the name of the person delivering the training.

OSHA defines a Competent person as one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. From that definition, in reality, it depends on several things at once. Put another way, a Competent Person is someone who, through training and/or experience, is knowledgeable of the various Occupational Safety & Heath Administration (OSHA) standards that apply to their workplace, is capable of identifying workplace hazards relating to their specific operations, and has the authority invested in him or her by their employer to correct the hazards to protect workers. There are numerous courses available to HELP one become knowledgeable in becoming a competent person. However; successful completion of a course does not, alone, necessarily establish an individual as a “competent person” for a number of reasons. By its terms, the definition of a “competent person” compels the employer to select an employee based on his or her capability to identify hazards. Finally, the definition of a competent person requires the individual to have the authority to take prompt corrective action. No course can provide that authority, since it can only be provided by the employer. Simply stated, a competent person is one who:

  • Knows the hazards existing and likely to exist;
  • Knows how to control or eliminate hazards;
  • Has been given the authority to promptly correct hazards . . . and does!

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them. A confined space is large enough to enter, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Confined spaces include, but are not limited to underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics: contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; contains a material that has the potential to engulf an entrant; has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

In theory you do not have to have a designated rescue team if you elect to outsource that requirement. You may outsource to another service to provide your rescue element; however there is an evaluation process for outside rescue services (See 29 CFR 146(k), “Rescue and Emergency Services” for requirements). Additionally, if the service you select is an off-site rescue service and they indicate for any reason that it would be unable to respond to a rescue summons (which would most likely be the case with any established fire department or emergency medical agency), entry should not be authorized unless an alternative rescue service can be arranged.