Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

February 21, 1986


Regional Administrator


JOHN B. MILES, JR., Director
Directorate of Field Operations

Clarification of Competent and Qualified Person, as it Relates to Subpart P

This is in response to your memorandum of January 28, on the above subject.

29 CFR 1926.32(f) states: "Competent person" means on who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroun- dings or working conditons, which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dang- erous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

29 CFR 1926.32(l) states: "Qualified" means one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or profess- ional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.

These definitions provide that a competent person must have authority to take prompt measures to eliminate hazards at the work site and have the experience to be capable of identifying these hazards. This is the reason a competent person is required under inspection requirements in 29 CFR 1926.650 and 29 CFR 1926.651.

The definitions provide that a qualified person must have a recognized degree, certificate, etc., or extensive experience and ability to solve the subject problems, at the worksite. This is the reason why 29 CFR 1926.651(f) requires that supporting systems design shall be by a qualified person. There may be a requirement for more technical or engineering knowledge here.

Each excavation job as in any other case, must be evaluated as to the facts relating to the needs of a competent person, and qualified person.

The professional judgement of OSHA must come into play by using our construction regulations where they apply

Please advise if we can be of further assistance.