Become Your Competent Persons

By law, all employers, regardless of their size or sector, must appoint one or more “competent persons” – someone with the necessary training, experience and knowledge to help them fulfil their duties under health and safety legislation.

If you don’t have this level of expertise in-house, Ellis Whittam can help you fulfil this requirement by acting as one of your competent persons, giving you an added layer of technical health and safety support.

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A high-quality extension of your health and safety team

Few companies are willing to take on the responsibility of becoming one of your competent persons, instead positioning themselves as ‘competent advisers’.

At Ellis Whittam, we’re so confident in the expertise of our consultants and the quality of our personalised, fixed-fee support that we’re prepared to take on this title and the responsibilities it entails.

  • A named, highly-experienced Health & Safety specialist acting as an extension of your team
  • Qualified experts (all our consultants are member of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, the professional body for safety practitioners) 
  • As much advice, guidance and support as you require to meet your duties under health and safety law
  • An on-site General Risk Assessment to identify and remedy any areas where you’re exposed and get to know your organisation
  • Everything you need to maintain and demonstrate compliance – from a robust Health & Safety Policy to award-winning software

Related Information


Health and Safety Competent Person FAQs


What to Include in a Health & Safety Policy

Your competent source of health and safety advice

You might be tempted to put health and safety in the hands of someone within your organisation, but if their knowledge of risk management is limited, can they really be considered competent? Have they had relevant training, such as a course accredited by IOSH or NEBOSH? Can they apply this knowledge? Do they have the technical ability to develop solutions to problems? If not, you need external support, as you may be unintentionally falling short of requirements.

At Ellis Whittam, our Health & Safety Consultants tick all of these boxes and more. From robust documentation to risk-reducing advice, we have the expertise to keep you operating safely and compliantly, giving you – and the regulator – reassurance that you’re in safe hands.

“With the help of Ellis Whittam, we have developed robust and efficient health and safety systems and they continue to work with us to keep up these exceptional standards. It’s very reassuring for our colleagues, clients and anyone connected with our business."

Hardies Property & Construction Consultants

Popular FAQs

Common competent person queries and questions about our service, answered by our Health & Safety specialists.

What is a competent person?

Put simply, a competent person helps an organisation to comply with health and safety law and take all reasonable steps to keep people from harm. This will be one or more persons who have the ability to recognise the health and safety risks associated with your organisation and identify sensible and proportionate solutions.
The meaning of competent person can be found in Regulation 7 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. This states that “every employer shall, subject to paragraphs (6) and (7), appoint one or more competent persons to assist him in undertaking the measures he needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon him by or under the relevant statutory provisions and by Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997.”

What is the difference between a competent person and a responsible person?

Crucially, the term ‘responsible person’ does not feature in health and safety law as we talk about competent person, but it does feature in fire safety legislation. As well as traditional safety risks, employers must manage fire in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and it is in that Order that the reference to a ‘responsible person’ appears. In most circumstances, the responsible person is the employer or occupier of the premises and they assume full responsibility for ensuring and maintaining correct fire safety and procedures. They cannot defer this responsibility to anybody else.
One of the responsibilities the responsible person has under the Order is to conduct a suitable Fire Risk Assessment, and if you cannot do that yourself, then you can engage someone externally. This appointed person, who must be competent, is where the confusion arises, but ultimately ‘responsible person’ is a clearly defined term in fire legislation, and that person will normally be the employer.

Do all organisations need to appoint a competent person(s)?

The requirement to have a competent person(s) to support your organisation applies to all employers, regardless of size or sector. Whether you employ one person or several thousand, whether you’re a low-risk office-based business or a high-risk manufacturing environment, an independent retailer or a large charity, you must appoint at least one suitable individual to take on this role.

What does the role of competent person involve?

Employers must comply with all relevant health and safety laws and regulations – a legal duty which cannot be delegated or transferred to anyone else. However, most business owners aren’t health and safety specialists, which is why the law requires employers to appoint somebody to assist them. The role of the competent person(s), therefore, is to utilise their knowledge, skills and experience to help you comply with all relevant rules and regulations and ultimately ensure the health and safety of your workers, customers, visitors and anyone else who may be affected by your activities.

Who can take on this role?

Your competent person(s) must be capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions and have authorisation to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. The legislation says that a person shall be regarded as ‘competent’ if they have sufficient training, experience or knowledge and ‘other qualities’. This isn’t exactly clear-cut, and for employers, such broad criteria often poses more questions than answers. If you’re unsure whether your in-house health and safety person is truly competent, it’s always best to air on the side of caution.

Can you act as one of our competent persons if you’re advising us from a distance?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) explains that if you’re not confident in your ability to manage your health and safety responsibilities in-house, or if you are a higher-risk business, you can appoint an external professional as a source of competent health and safety advice.
Your competent person(s) should, however, be familiar with the organisation and its activities. At Ellis Whittam, our programme of site visits and personalised one-on-one support means we develop a genuine understanding of your organisation and its safety management system, fulfilling this requirement.
It’s important to note, however, that we are not a replacement for internal health and safety management, and somebody should be appointed within your workplace to monitor compliance and ensure our advice is implemented. We can provide IOSH-accredited training to help you improve the abilities and confidence of your in-house competent person.

Why would I appoint somebody external to my business?

Will the individual you appoint as your in-house competent person be able to dedicate enough time to this responsibility? They might know your organisation inside and out, but do they have the necessary skills, knowledge and training to keep you compliant? Do they have a working understanding of health and safety legislation and how it applies to your organisation? Appointing an impartial person, external to your organisation, gives you access to technical expertise and the benefit of hands-on experience, and brings structure to the way you manage health and safety. We’ll help you to set up an effective safety management system, show you what good looks like, and give you clarity over what you need to be doing.

Will appointing Ellis Whittam satisfy the competent person requirement entirely?

We may not necessarily be the only competent person your organisation needs. A lot will depend on your risk profile; the more complex your work environment becomes, the more competent persons you may need to support and advise you. For example, while we can advise on your overall safety management system, we may not be in a position to venture into specialist areas such as asbestos and Legionella, though we can certainly point you in the right direction. Of course, there are duties on you too, namely to cooperate your consultant in respect to visits and requests for information. This will be particularly important between visits, where you will be supported remotely.

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There's much more to our competent persons support...

Accident and Incident Investigation

An accident in the workplace is every employer’s worst nightmare. We can help to guide your investigation, advise on corrective action and protect your interests in the event of regulatory enforcement.

Can you help us prepare an accident investigation report?

Yes. This can be tricky to get right, especially as once you reach conclusions and set out the actions you have taken, the document is disclosable to the other side in the event of a personal injury claim or prosecution. We’ll help you stick to the facts, keep opinion separate, and make sure the report is presented in a way that protects your best interests and, most importantly, identifies the things that need to be put right to prevent reoccurrence.

We have been written to by the regulator regarding a health and safety incident. Can you help?

Yes. In the event of a serious accident or emergency, we will support your investigation and advise you on your communications with the enforcing authority. We will be there to help mitigate damage, guide you and support you. If you have received a letter from the regulator, we can help you to formulate a response until legal advice is required, in which case (if you have chosen to take it) our Legal Expenses Insurance is activated.

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Advice Line

Whether you’re facing an immediate crisis or just in need of an expert second opinion, get sensible, proportionate and practical advice at any time with our unlimited advice line support.

Who will I be advised by?

At Ellis Whittam, we’re big believers in a personal approach. That’s why we assign each of our clients a named consultant, with who will become your main point of contact for advice, guidance and support on all health and safety matters. If you take up our full Health & Safety service, your consultant will also be the one to conduct your health and safety audit and produce your policy and handbook. This means you’ll receive consistent advice from a dedicated expert who truly understands your organisation’s safety system, arrangements and goals.

What if my consultant isn’t available?

If, for whatever reason, your dedicated consultant isn’t available when you call, our office-based Helpdesk Team will be able to resolve most issues for you or direct you to the relevant guidance or template you need via our Knowledge Hub. If you have a particularly urgent or technical query, our Helpdesk Team can triage this to another expert within our team. Rest assured you’ll never be left without support.

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Audit and Inspection

From a policy that isn’t being executed properly to a procedure or risk assessment that’s out of date, we can conduct a thorough examination of your premises, practices and procedures to identify and remedy any areas where you’re exposed.

What form does the audit take?

There are a number of different models and templates for conducting health and safety audits. Most commonly, and the approach we adopt at Ellis Whittam, is what’s known as a General Risk Assessment (GRA). This is a systematic examination of your workplace to identify possible causes of harm, the likelihood and severity of that harm occurring given the safeguards already in place, and any further control measures needed to reduce risk to as low a level as is “reasonably practicable”.

Will you just provide a report of the issues identified?

No, we report on both compliant and non-compliant areas, and the report will provide clear solutions and recommendations to address particular areas of concern. Unlike some providers, we won’t insert default ‘corrective action required’ responses unless it is absolutely clear what you need to do; we edit to provide clarity. Plus, if you have any questions or concerns, your dedicated Health & Safety Consultant will be more than happy to assist.

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An optional element of our fixed-fee Health & Safety support, our FCA-regulated Legal Expenses Insurance can cover against the commercial ramifications of a serious safety incident.

What types of courses are available?

Our ever-growing library of e-Learning courses currently covers over 100 topics, including HR courses such as Equality & Diversity, Sexual Harassment and Social Media Use; soft skills courses such as Communication, Leadership and Change Management; and compliance courses such GDPR, Anti-Money Laundering and the Bribery Act. We also offer an extensive range of Health & Safety courses, including Accident Reporting, Risk Assessment and First Aid. Download the full course brochure.

How much do the courses cost?

All of our e-Learning courses are free for the first year when you purchase our Employment Law & HR or Health & Safety managed service. This means you’re not paying per head or per course, which not only keeps down but gives you complete cost certainty over your training expenses. This is particularly handy if your workforce is growing, as you won’t need to purchase extra licenses, giving you exceptional value for money.

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Legal Expenses Insurance

An optional element of our fixed-fee Health & Safety support, our FCA-regulated Legal Expenses Insurance (LEI) can cover against the commercial ramifications of a serious safety incident.

What happens if there’s an accident in our workplace? Is it likely we will be fined?

Most reportable accidents in the workplace are not followed up by the regulator, but if they do take an interest, you are more likely to be subject to some sort of enforcement action being taken. This may be an enforcement notice or Fee for Intervention (FFI) breach. Alternatively, it may be the start of criminal proceedings that end up in court, the cost of which can be significant.

Does LEI include legal representation?

Yes. If you choose to defend the claim, our LEI includes legal support right the way through a case, including barrister’s costs. Here, there will be a prospect of success assessment; the likelihood of an acquittal will need to be more than 50% in order to be covered by the LEI. However, if you’ve followed advice from your dedicated Ellis Whittam Health & Safety Consultant, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be covered in this situation. In reality, if we have identified an issue and you’ve taken the corrective action we recommended, you shouldn’t find yourself in this situation in the first place.

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MyH&S Software

Our innovative Health & Safety Management Software will revolutionise your approach to safety management by creating smart “to-do” lists, cutting out the admin and allowing you to monitor your compliance at a glance.

How can MyH&S help me?

Our MyH&S software can transform how you manage health and safety. By turning heavily-administrative, time-consuming tasks into automated processes, it will increase standards and efficiencies across your organisation and free up valuable time. By being able to monitor your compliance at a glance, you’re not left in the dark about how you’re performing and can quickly and proactively identify what action is needed, reducing the potential for an incident and giving you peace of mind. It can also be instrumental in demonstrating compliance to the regulator, increasing your chances of a stress-free inspection.

What exactly is a ‘risk status indicator’?

One of the main benefits of our Health & Safety Software is that you can see, at a glance, exactly how you’re performing and what needs to be done to maintain compliance. When you log in, you will immediately see your Current health status, which gives you visibility of all sites and their current RAG status for ‘Audit’, ‘Registry’, ‘Monitoring’ and ‘Risk assessments’, as well as Location monthly health status, which allows you to select a site and see the progression of the RAG status in any given time frame.

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Policy and Handbook

Whether you’ve got nothing in place or are in need of an expert review, our Health & Safety specialists can provide you with a policy and handbook tailored to your organisation, processes, activities and environment.

Who will the Health & Safety Policy be written by?

Your Ellis Whittam Health & Safety Policy will be written by an experienced Health & Safety Consultant with recognised qualifications and technical expertise. If you take up our core Health & Safety service, this person will become your dedicated consultant for all health and safety matters – meaning the advice you receive will be consistent and based on a genuine understanding of your business. Plus, for any questions or areas of your policy that require specific technical expertise, as well as support from your named consultant, you’ll be able to rely on a nationwide team of experts with vast and diverse specialisms and experience.

What sections will it include?

Your Health & Safety Policy will be based on the principle of plan, do, check, act. It will include a statement of commitment describing how the business is organised to fulfill its legal responsibilities (refined to reflect post holder titles), followed by an arrangements section covering all risk areas that are relevant to the business and how they will be managed (contractors, fire, first aid, machinery maintenance, lone working, etc.). For each, it will follow a format of “we recognise”, “we will” and “the approach we will take is…”. It will also cover the importance of risk assessment, monitoring and review.

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Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is a fundamental element of health and safety management. Get an expert steer on on formulating assessments for specific risk areas such as DSE, manual handling, COSHH and fire safety.

Is a risk assessment a legal requirement?

Yes. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, all employers, regardless of size or sector, must undertake a “suitable and sufficient” assessment of the health and safety of risks their employees are exposed to while at work, as well as the risks to any non-employees (customers, visitors, contractors, etc.) who may be affected by their activities. If you employ five or more employees, it is a legal requirement to keep a written record of your assessment and significant findings. If you’re not sure where to begin with risk assessment, we can help you.

We have an in-house health and safety team, but they haven’t had formal risk assessment training.

Risk assessment is the foundation of an effective safety management system, yet many individuals with this responsibility have not been taught the basic principles of how to conduct a risk assessment and what the law expects. This can result in an inaccurate estimation of risk, which may lead to certain control measures being recommended that are not necessary or, worse, control measures not being identified or implemented. If you are keen to make sure this essential task is being done properly, our expert Health & Safety Team can devise a risk assessors training package to develop internal competence.

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Experts in Health & Safety

Why choose us?

We have the expertise to help you simplify complex health and safety legislation, find workable solutions to health and safety challenges, and protect your organisation from the rising cost of non-compliance.

  • Approved by a Primary Authority
  • Dedicated specialists with recognised qualifications
  • Genuine hands-on experience of managing risk
  • Cost certainty with our unlimited, fixed-fee model
  • The confidence to act as one of your competent persons

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