Who is a competent person

Competent Persons

Have you ever heard the expression: ‘To assume only makes an ass out of you and me?’ Well, this rule applies when you assume competence without fully understanding the criteria that qualifies you as a Competent Person under the Building Act 1975.

Who is a competent person?

Personally, in my view the term Competent Person is exceptionally misleading. It implies that if you consider someone – or yourself even – to be competent, then this is enough for them to be a “competent person”. It also might suggest that if someone is deemed by the certifier to not be a Competent Person, then they are being considered as not competent in their industry either. Both of these assumptions are, of course, completely incorrect.

Under the Building Act 1975, only the Building Certifier can deem a person a competent person. Therefore, it would be more appropriate to label them under the term ‘Certifier Approved Person’. This term tells you very clearly the person is approved by the certifier. It cannot be misunderstood, confused, or misrepresented. But until the legislator sees the error of their ways, we are stuck with the term “Competent Person” – hence the reason for this article.

A Competent Person is a person approved by a Building Certifier to help in the building certification process. This statement needs to be clearly understood. A competent person HELPS the certifier carry out their certification functions because the certifier cannot be everywhere all the time and neither are they an expert in every aspect of building. The certifier is a general practitioner who calls in the experts to help when necessary.

The certifier often needs help to do their job, however before they accept that help they must determine for themselves that the person is a competent person as is required by the Building Act 1975. To emphasise this further, just because one certifier says a certain person is a competent person, this does not mean the next certifier will.

For the building certifier to approve someone as a competent person they have to examine two things:

1. Whether there is a law requiring that person to be licensed in the state of Queensland in order for them to carry out their job. If there is such a law, then the proposed competent person MUST hold that license.

2. The certifier MUST determine themselves whether that person has adequate qualification and experience to provide the design, and/or inspection help to the building certifier.

Once they have examined these two above criteria and satisfied themselves that the person is a competent person to perform certain functions, they must then notify them of their decision in writing as well as keep a register of this notification.

You might ask: ‘But surely an engineer is an engineer, so why should they have to be deemed a Competent Person?’

Well let me explain. An engineer, for example, may be a civil engineer with years of experience in designing roads and bridges, but with no experience whatsoever in designing house slabs and footings. So, although they might be a Queensland Registered Professional Engineer, they do not have the relevant experience in the required field and therefore would not be deemed a Competent Person by the certifier to design and inspect such elements.

…just because a person is a qualified engineer, architect, or other professional or trades person, it does not mean they are a Competent Person under the Building Act 1975.”

A certifier allows the Competent Person to do work on their behalf so, as you can see, there is a very good reason why the certifier is the only one who has the power to deem a person a Competent Person or not. The certifier must take all the necessary steps to ensure that this person not only is licensed and qualified, but that they have the experience necessary and, if they are especially diligent, they will also ensure that the person holds the necessary professional indemnity insurance.

To summarise, just because a person is a qualified engineer, architect, or other professional or trades person, it does not mean they are a Competent Person under the Building Act 1975. Competent Persons are ONLY appointed by the Building Certifier for the ACTUAL project to provide SPECIFIC certification help to the Building Certifier.

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I am a Director of Devcert and have been a Building Surveyor since 1989. I have a bachelor degree in building surveying and I am a qualified carpenter. I have been in the construction industry since 1981. I have a real passion for the building certification profession as I believe building certifiers are the general practitioners of the construction industry. Our role is not only to know building law and apply it, our role includes assisting in the development of the knowledge of all in the industry by sharing our knowledge and experience.