Meeting the OSHA Competent Person Requirement for Scaffolding Users

Posted on November 8, 2022 in Scaffolding

Scaffolding is a necessary component for many construction job sites; however, it can pose a serious threat to workers. In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reported 52 scaffolding fatalities. By adhering to safety rules, regulations, and best practices, these fatalities could have been avoided.

OSHA requires a “competent person” erector to be involved in the setup, usage, and take down of scaffolding. Read on to learn more about meeting OSHA scaffolding requirements and how to ensure the safety of workers.

What Are the Requirements for OSHA Competent Persons?

OSHA competent persons inspect scaffolding for the inauguration at the US Capitol.

OSHA has a very specific definition of a scaffolding competent person:

One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or work conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.

A competent person is required to undergo specific training that, at a bare minimum, must include the following:

  1. Employees involved in activities such as erecting, dismantling, repairing, and inspecting scaffolds (erectors) must be trained by a competent person to recognize any hazards associated with those activities. Training shall include [29 CFR 1926.454(b)]:
    • The nature of scaffold hazards.
    • Correct procedures for erecting, disassembling, etc., the type of scaffold in question.
    • The design criteria, maximum intended load capacity, and intended scaffold use.
    • Any other pertinent requirements to include OSHA and other regulations for erected scaffolding structures.
  2. Employees who perform work (users) while on a scaffold must be trained by a qualified person to recognize the hazards associated with the type of scaffold being used and to understand the procedures to control those hazards. Training shall include [29 CFR 1926.454(a)]:
    • The nature of any electrical hazards, fall hazards, and falling object hazards in the work area.
    • The correct procedures for dealing with those hazards.
    • The proper use of the scaffold, and the proper handling of materials on the scaffold.
    • The maximum intended load and the load-carrying capacity of the scaffold.
    • Any other pertinent requirements.
  3. Employers retrain each employee when they have reason to believe that the employee lacks the skill or understanding to safely erect, use, or dismantle a scaffold. Such retraining is required in at least the following situations [29 CFR 1926.454(c)]:
    • Where changes at the worksite present a hazard for which an employee has not previously been trained.
    • Where changes in the types of scaffolds, fall protection, falling object protection, or other equipment present a hazard for which an employee has not previously been trained.
    • Where inadequacies in an affected employee’s work indicate that the employee has not retained the necessary proficiency.
  4. In addition, the Competent Person erectors must know the CFR 1923 Subpart L Scaffolds Sections 19326-450-454 & Appendices
  5. Have working knowledge of Signs, Signals, and Barricades Subpart G
  6. Be knowledgeable and competent in Fall Protection CFR 1926 Subpart M as it pertains to Scaffolding and proper anchors.

Why Does OSHA Require a Competent Person for Scaffolding Users?

workers trained in OSHA's scaffolding requirements inspect scaffolds on a jobsite

Beyond the obvious safety aspects, there are other important reasons why OSHA requires a competent person for scaffolding.


Unless someone is physically watching and monitoring a scaffold 24/7, a wide range of circumstances could compromise its integrity. For example, after the workers have gone home, an errant vehicle could have accidentally bumped up against the scaffold, causing damage that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. Or perhaps an overnight windstorm could have caused hidden damage.

The chances of an accident occurring are much less when a competent person inspects the scaffold for users before the workday starts and after any incident that could impact its integrity.

Erected, Dismantled, and Modified

Scaffolds are erected, moved, dismantled, or altered only under the supervision and direction of a competent person qualified in scaffold erection, moving, dismantling, or alteration. Such activities are performed only by experienced and trained erectors selected for such work by a competent person.

Safe Access

The employer provides safe means of access for each employee erecting or dismantling a scaffold where the provision of safe access is feasible and does not create a greater hazard. The employer has a competent person determine whether safe access is feasible or would pose a greater hazard to provide and have employees use a safe means of access. This determination is based on site conditions and the type of scaffold being erected or dismantled.


Before the scaffold is used, direct connections are evaluated by a competent person who confirms, based on the inspection evaluation, that the supporting surfaces are capable of supporting the loads to be imposed.

Accessing Work Conditions

Work on or from scaffolds is prohibited during storms or high winds unless a competent person has determined that it is safe for employees to be on the scaffold and those employees are protected by a personal fall arrest system or wind screens. 

Virginia-Specific Scaffolding Regulations

OSHA scaffolding regulations are only part of the equation. The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) department requires all scaffolds to be built at least 10 feet away from power lines—no matter the voltage. For more than 50kV, one must increase the distance by 0.4 inches for each 1kV over 50kV.

Repercussions of Not Fulfilling OSHA’s Competent Person User Requirement

In addition to a fine or citation from OSHA, not having a competent person inspector can lead to the entire job getting shut down due to workers not being able (or willing) to use an unsafe scaffold. 

Worker injuries or fatalities are two more repercussions. A single industrial accident due to a scaffolding fall can be very costly for the employer. 

In addition to workers’ comp and time lost due to job site shutdowns, a poor safety record could negatively impact landing future jobs. Fulfilling OSHA’s competent person requirement helps prevent those costs and ensures worker safety.

Competent Person Training at Circle Safety & Health Consultants

The Circle Safety & Health Consultants Competent User/Inspector Course will fulfill OSHA scaffolding requirements for competent person training. The highly knowledgeable staff at Circle Safety will provide comprehensive training and valuable content materials.

The class is five hours long, and they can conduct it at their facility or yours. Upon successful completion, attendees will receive a certificate, and the client/employer will receive copies of the certificates, the training roster, quizzes, and course evaluations for their records. It’s highly recommended that workers get recertified every five years.


Scaffolding Services for the Mid-Atlantic Area

At Scaffolding Solutions, we specialize in providing high-quality scaffolding to many different types of jobs and industries. We have an impeccable safety record and can solve your toughest scaffolding challenges. Click below to learn more about our services.

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