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Can a competent person prevent construction workers' accidents?

Safety authorities in New York expect construction company owners to ensure that a competent person is appointed on all job sites. It is one of the many measures required in the quest to prevent construction workers' accidents. What qualifications are necessary for someone to be competent? There are no specific qualifications, nor does the Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandate particular standards for such a person.

A competent person is someone with existing experience, skills and knowledge to enable him or her to identify potentially serious or deadly hazards. He or she must be authorized by the employer to take responsibility for the implementation of corrective actions to mitigate hazards immediately. There is no requirement for a degree or certificate to be appointed as the competent person on a construction site.

In comparison, someone with a professional standing who has a recognized degree or certification might be able to identify hazards, but he or she would not necessarily have the practical experience to resolve problems or mitigate risks. Even though OSHA has no standards or certification requirements for competent people, inspectors typically ask for the competent person on a site during inspections. It is not only to ensure the presence of such a person but also to evaluate his or her competence to fill the position of a competent person.

There is nothing more valuable than experience in the construction industry, and New York workers might be saved from construction workers' accidents with such a competent person on site to address known safety hazards. However, on-the-job injuries will likely continue to occur, and when they do, medical expenses and lost wages could be overwhelming. Fortunately, help is available through the state-regulated workers' compensation insurance system, and legal counsel can assist with the legal and administrative processes of filing benefits claims.

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