Competence

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“Competent” is one of those words that pops up every now and then in Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety legislation that many people don’t think too much about, which is a huge mistake. That word means something and when you see it, you need to pause and put some thought to you’re game plan going forward.

According to the definitions found at the beginning of both the Alberta OHS Regulation and Code:

“competent” in relation to a person, means adequately qualified, suitably trained and with sufficient experience to safely perform work without supervision or with only a minimal degree of supervision.

Perhaps you are someone who grew up on a farm. At a very young age, you began helping out with chores and one of them was operating a forklift used to offload bales of hay for the farm animals. By the time you got your driver’s licence at age 16, you were an expert forklift operator. You have plenty of experience and your parents and relatives may have given you a bunch of training in how to run that piece of equipment. But until you’ve gone through a forklift training course and received a certification to prove that you’re adequately qualified, you can’t be deemed competent and can’t, by law, operate a forklift as part of your occupation.

There are lots of situations where this kind of thing comes up. For instance, all scaffolds must be inspected and tagged by a competent worker prior to use and every 21 days thereafter. (Code, Part 23, 326(3)). Again, you may have been putting up scaffold for most of your career, but unless you’ve been properly deemed competent, you’re doing it illegally and could be fined.

Bottom line: If you’re looking through the legislation to see what the Alberta OHS expectations are for a particular circumstance and you see the word “competent,” you need to stop and ask yourself three questions: Am I adequately qualified? Am I suitably trained? Do I have sufficient experience? If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” you’ve got some things to take care of prior to beginning that work or you could find yourself in a whole heap of trouble.

Flannery Safety Consulting provides services in the Lethbridge area. If you have any questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact Jim Flannery at jim@flannerysafetyconsulting.com or (403) 715-4162.

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