OSHA Fact Sheet Helps Shipyard Employers Evaluate Competent Person Programs

Published October 18, 2017

A fact sheet recently published by OSHA is intended to help employers evaluate the adequacy of their shipyard competent person programs, which are meant to protect workers from exposures to potentially dangerous atmospheres like confined spaces aboard vessels. OSHA’s requirements for worker protection from dangerous atmospheres describe the qualifications, training, and duties of employer-designated shipyard competent persons. According to the agency, shipyard competent persons must be able to recognize and evaluate worker exposures to hazardous substances or other unsafe conditions. They must also be able to specify the necessary precautions to be taken to ensure the safety of workers. Tasks performed by shipyard competent persons include visually inspecting and testing certain spaces to determine the oxygen content of atmospheres prior to worker entry; determining the flammability of surface preservative coatings and prescribing the necessary safety precautions before welding, cutting, or heating of those surfaces begins; and calibrating and maintaining test equipment.

Cases where atmospheric conditions cannot be adequately evaluated by an individual trained only to the shipyard competent person level require the expertise of an NFPA-certified marine chemist (CMC). OSHA’s requirements indicate when use of a CMC, Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), or Coast Guard authorized person is required.

OSHA’s new fact sheet (PDF) provides a checklist for assessing shipyard competent person programs and other information to guide employers in determining the necessary qualifications of shipyard competent persons.