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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How we help

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

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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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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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