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 https://www.osha.gov.

April 15, 1992

Mr. Don Bollinger
Kilborn Management Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 832
Elko, Nevada 89801-0832

Dear Mr. Bollinger:

Your March 5 letter to Mr. James Foster, Director of the Office of Information and Consumer Affairs, requesting information on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules addressing competent persons has been forwarded to the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance for reply. I apologize for the delay in responding to your inquiry.

For the purposes of OSHA's safety and health standards for the construction industry, "competent person" is defined in 29 CFR 1926.32(f) as "one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them." This definition is further clarified in the preamble for the rulemaking on excavations (FR 54 45909) issued on October 31, 1989. That preamble states that what constitutes a "competent person" depends on the context in which the term is used. In order to be a "competent person" for the purposes of the excavation standard, one must have specific training in, and be knowledgeable about, soils analysis, the use of protective systems, and the requirements of the excavation standard. One who does not have this training or knowledge is not considered by OSHA to be capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in excavation work nor capable of taking the necessary corrective measures. By contrast, a "qualified" person or engineer, as defined in 1926.32(l), might have more technical expertise, but would not necessarily have expertise in hazard recognition or the authority to correct identified hazards.

I have enclosed a list of the sections in 29 CFR 1926 that address competent persons. If we can be of any further assistance, please contact Mr. Roy F. Gurnham or Mr. Dale R. Cavanaugh of my staff in the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance at (202) 523-8136.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs