What Does “Competent Person” Mean In MSHA’s Part 46?

MSHA-46-competent-personIf you read through 30 CFR Part 46, the MSHA regulations related to safety training for most surface miners and other employees at those mines, you’ll see references to “competent persons.” But just what does that mean? What is a competent person according to MSHA and Part 46?

In this article, we’re going to look at those questions more closely and dig up the answers. Ha-ha! Mining pun intended!

In addition, we’re going to give you some resources that can help you prepare yourself or someone else to be a competent person for Part 46.

So let’s get started.

Along the way, we’re going to address some similar issues for Part 48, and we’ve written a similar similar article related to Part 48 and MSHA-approved instructors, so check that one out as well.

What Does “Competent” Mean In General, Everyday Language?

Before we figure out what MSHA means by “competent person” in Part 46, let’s start by seeing what the word “competent” means in everyday language.

According to our friends at the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, competent means “having the necessary ability or skills: able to do something well or well enough to meet a standard.”

So, in everyday talk, a person who is competent has “necessary ability or skills” and is “able to do something well or well enough to meet a standard.”

We’ll see that these ideas, of having necessarily ability or skills and being able to do something well enough to meet a standard, are related to the way MSHA uses the word competent in its requirements for a Part 46 competent person.

Competent Person in MSHA’s Part 46

Now that we know what the word competent person means in everyday language, let’s turn our attention to what 30 CFR and MSHA mean when they use it in Part 46.

The Scope of Part 46

First, a quick reminder of the scope of Part 46.

According to 46.1, here are the mines at which Part 46 applies:

“The provisions of this part set forth the mandatory requirements for training and retraining miners and other persons at shell dredging, sand, gravel, surface stone, surface clay, colloidal phosphate, and surface limestone mines.”

If this doesn’t include your mine site, check the information about Part 48 at the bottom of this article or in our separate Part 48 MSHA-approved Instructor article.

Competent Person in MSHA Part 46

In 30 CFR Part 46.2, we can find a definition of competent person. Here it is:

“Competent person means a person designated by the production-operator or independent contractor who has the ability, training, knowledge, or experience to provide training to miners in his or her area of expertise. The competent person must be able both to effectively communicate the training subject to miners and to evaluate whether the training given to miners is effective.”

If you recall the meaning of “competent” in everyday language, it had two aspects:

  1. Having “necessary skills”
  2. “Being able to do something well enough to meet a standard”

And, if you review the definition of “competent person” in Part 46, we can map those ideas from the everyday definition to the Part 46 definition:

Having “necessary skills” in Part 46 means having the “ability, training, knowledge, or experience to provide training to miners in his or her area of expertise.” We also learn this has two aspects–being “able both to effectively communicate the training subject to miners and to evaluate whether the training given to miners is effective.”

And meeting a standard in this case means being “designated by the production-operator or independent contractor.” Presumably, by demonstrating mastery (and/or competence, to stay focused on the topic at hand) of the two skills above.

“Necessary Skills” in MSHA Part 46’s Definition of “Competent Person”–Plus the Issue of Subject Matter Knowledge

As we saw, the definition of competent person needs two skills plus an area of expertise.

All told, that means the competent person must:

  1. Know how to provide training (a skill)
  2. Know how to evaluate the effectiveness of training (a skill)
  3. Have one or more area of subject matter expertise on which he/she can provide training (subject matter knowledge)

So let’s take a look at the first skill, knowing how to provide training. Many times, an experienced worker or supervisor who knows the job very well gets put into a training position without knowing much about how to provide effective training. That creates a “square peg and round hole” situation–because being a subject matter expert doesn’t mean you can effectively teach others that same topic.

As a result, we’re providing some tips to help people know how to train others effectively. Check out the links below:

  • ANSI Z490.1, the National Standard for Effective EHS Training: What better place to learn than from a national standard prepared by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)? Click to read our series of articles that provide an overview of ANSI Z490.1, and keep your eyes out for our free downloadable guide to ANSI Z490.1, which is coming soon.
  • Adult Learning Principles: You’ll be training adults when you deliver your MSHA Part 46 training. All adults have certain characteristics in common that make training more effective. These are known as adult learning principles. Click to review these adult learning principles and to learn to apply them.
  • Blended Learning: Some trainers have a tendency to rely on one “type” of training. It may be all computer-based, or maybe it’s all instructor-led, or maybe it’s all having workers look at Power Points. But research shows, and most learning and development experts agree, that a blended learning solution that uses different types of training is the best way to go. Click the link to learn more about blended learning.
  • How to Present Your Words: Writing and speaking in clear, conversational language can really improve the effectiveness of your training. Click for tips on writing for training (much of which also directly relates to speaking for training).
  • The Importance of Visuals: The importance of including properly designed visuals in training materials can’t be overstated. Click to see 25 graphic design types that will make your safety training more effective.
  • The Importance of Chunking: There’s a limit to the amount of new information people can learn at one time. This limit is generally assumed to be about four or five things. As a result, it’s best to “cut up” your training materials into smaller “chunks” so that you don’t overwhelm your workers. Click to read more about chunking.
  • Tips from Your Peers: We can all learn best practices from our peers. In this case, from professionals involved in safety training at workplaces throughout the world. Click to read real-life professionals who deliver safety training share their own ideas about what works and what doesn’t.

Next, let’s look at the second skill, knowing how to evaluate the effectiveness of the training. So it’s not enough just to provide training. You’ve also got to be able to evaluate the training experience so you can tell if the training was effective. Meaning–did the employees learn what they were supposed to learn? To help you with that, we’ve provided the following links:

  • Align Training with Business Goals and KPIs: All training should support a business goal. When it comes to Part 46 training, the business goals you’re supporting are Part 46 compliance and also safety. Click to read more about aligning training to a business goal and using KPIs to measure your training’s effectiveness.
  • Evaluate Training at Four Levels: One of the standard ways that learning & development people try to evaluate training is to do so at four different levels: learner, knowledge, behavior, and business results. Click to learn more about evaluating training effectiveness.
  • Test/Assess Employees After Training: The second of the four levels of evaluation mentioned above is using testing to assess your employee’s knowledge and skills after training. Click to read more about testing after training.
  • Check MSHA’s Website about Training Evaluation: MSHA has a nice web page dedicated to training evaluation. Click to see MSHA’s materials on evaluation.

And finally, let’s look at the knowledge or “areas of expertise” for which for which the competent person will lead training. The important aspect here is that someone may be a competent person to train on one topic but not on another. For example, the person may be competent to train people how to use respirators  but not competent to train people on first aid.

The safety training for Part 46 can be on so many different topics that we couldn’t list them all here. However, MSHA gives general categories for various types of employees. Here are links to those requirements:

Hold the presses! We just found this MSHA Handbook Series, Education and Training Procedures, that has a nice list of topics for which you can be a competent person. See pages VI-6 and VI-7.

Who Determines if a Person Is a Competent Person for MSHA’s Part 46?

And now let’s turn our attention to who determines if a person is competent to provide Part 46 safety training.

If we go back to 46.2, we’ll get our answer:

“Competent person means a person designated by the production-operator or independent contractor who has the ability, training, knowledge, or experience to provide training to miners in his or her area of expertise. The competent person must be able both to effectively communicate the training subject to miners and to evaluate whether the training given to miners is effective.”

So, it’s up to the production-operator or independent contractor who’s ultimately in charge of ensuring the Part 46 training conducted at a mine site is conducted to choose the competent persons for various subjects. That means it’s not something that MSHA chooses, and it’s not something that a person has to go out and get a license or certificate for. But, as we said earlier, it stands to reason that the production-operator has somehow evaluated a person’s ability to train, to evaluate the effectiveness of training, and his/her knowledge of one or more subject area related to Part 46 training (see the FAQ section below for more about this).

In case you’re a little fuzzy about who a production-operator or independent contractor is, here are the definitions (again, from 46.2).

Production-operator means any owner, lessee, or other person who operates, controls, or supervises a mine under this part.

Independent contractor means any person, partnership, corporation, subsidiary of a corporation, firm, association, or other organization that contracts to perform services at a mine under this part.

FAQs about MSHA Part 46 Competent Persons

MSHA has provided a helpful collection of answers to FAQs about Part 46 competent persons. You can click this link to read the FAQs from the MSHA website or see our summaries below.

Competent Person as Agent of Company:

A person specified as a competent person does not automatically become an Agent of the company (see question 10 for exact MSHA language).

MSHA Approval of Competent Persons:

It is not necessary for MSHA to approve someone as a competent person. This decision is left up to the production-operator or independent contractor, as mentioned above (see question 12 for exact MSHA language).

Competent Person Receives Credit for Training Competent Person Leads:

A competent person can receive credit for completing training that he/she led (see question 13 for exact MSHA language).

Competent Person and Task Training:

People who lead New Task training must be competent persons for that task (see question 14 for exact MSHA language).

Being a Competent Person without Having Worked in All Areas of Mine:

Yes, this can happen (see question 15 for exact MSHA language).

Training Institutions or State Grantees as Competent Persons:

It is OK for a mine site’s list of competent persons to include training institutions or state grantees (see question 16 for exact MSHA language).

Training Institutions or State Grantees Leading Site-Specific Hazard Training:

This is allowed, but MSHA says that the organization must have “access to the site” and be “knowledgeable about the site-specific hazards at the mine.” Although MSHA says this IS allowed, they also say “a training institution or state grantee will not usually have the necessary information to conduct task or site-specific hazard awareness training.” (Please read question 16 to see the exact MSHA language  for this one).

Noting Competent Person for Training Records if Training Plan Lists Name of Organization:

On your Part 46 training plan, you can list the name of an organization, such as a training institution or state grantee as discussed above, as a “competent person” for one or more subjects. However, when you are creating your training records, you must include  the name of the actual trainer and not just the name of the organization the trainer works for (see question 17 for exact MSHA language).

More than One Competent Person Listed on Training Plan for a Given Subject:

Yes, this is allowed. However, the training record must include the name of the actual trainer who led a particular training session (see question 18 for exact MSHA language).

Documenting Why a Person Is Deemed a Competent Person:

The regulation does not specifically require this. However, MSHA reserves the right to ask questions about why a person has been considered a competent person (see question 19 for exact MSHA language).

Adding More Competent Persons to Completed Training Plan:

This is fine, you can do it. Just follow the rules laid out in 46.3 (see question 20 for exact MSHA language).

Having a Competent Person Lead Only a Part of Site-Specific Hazard Awareness Training:

It is OK to have someone be a competent person for only a part of the site-specific hazard awareness training (for example, to lead only the site-specific  hazard awareness training on electrical hazards). In this case, though, you must identify the limits of the competent person’s area of training expertise on your training plan (see question 21 for exact MSHA language).

Source: MSHA Part 46 FAQs (questions 10-21).

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MSHA, Part 48, and MSHA-Approved Instructors

Now that we know so much about Part 46 competent persons, let’s turn our attention briefly to Part 48.

The Scope of Part 48

Here’s what you need to know about the scope of Part 48 (this is directly from 48.1 and 48.21)

48.1: The provisions of this subpart A set forth the mandatory requirements for submitting and obtaining approval of programs for training and retraining miners working in underground mines. Requirements regarding compensation for training and retraining are also included. The requirements for training and retraining miners working at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines are set forth in subpart B of this part.

48.21 (subpart B): The provisions of this subpart B set forth the mandatory requirements for submitting and obtaining approval of programs for training and retraining miners working at surface mines and surface areas of underground mines. Requirements regarding compensation for training and retraining are also included. The requirements for training and retraining miners working in underground mines are set forth in subpart A of this part. This part does not apply to training and retraining of miners at shell dredging, sand, gravel, surface stone, surface clay, colloidal phosphate, and surface limestone mines, which are covered under 30 CFR Part 46.

Part 48 Doesn’t Include the Concept of a Competent Person

Although competent persons are a critical aspect of Part 46, they’re not part of Part 48.

In fact, we just ran a search for “competent” on the online version of Part 48 and came up with nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

So, as valuable as the stuff you learned about Part 46 competent persons above is, don’t try to apply it to Part 48.

Part 48 and the MSHA-Approved Instructor

Part 48 does include something similar to the Part 46 competent person, however. It’s the MSHA-approved Part 48 instructor.

Both the Part 46 competent person and the Part 48 MSHA-approved instructor provide training to miners and non-mining employees at mine sites. So in that aspect, they’re similar.

The primary difference, though, is that for Part 48, the instructor has to be approved by MSHA before he/she can instruct. You may remember that for Part 46, the production-operator and/or independent contractor is able to designate who is a competent person (it’s not necessary to get MSHA approval first).

This article explains everything you need to know about the Part 48 MSHA-approved instructor and the process for getting MSHA approval.

Your Turn: MSHA Part 46 Competent Persons

We’d like to know your experiences.

Have you ever been designated an MSHA Part 46 competent person? If so, on which subject areas did you provide training? What do you think you were well prepared for, and what do you think you were less prepared for? What are your tips for others? What were some lessons you learned?

See the comments section below? If so, go ahead and use it.

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. Jeff has worked in education/training for more than twenty years and in safety training for more than ten. You can follow Jeff at LinkedIn as well.

2 thoughts on “What Does “Competent Person” Mean In MSHA’s Part 46?

  1. Hello Jeff,

    Thank you for creating this article. It does clear up some question I had regarding the requirements. At the same time it has created some new questions.

    As a small company that sells products that are used in pt 46 and pt 48 mines we utilize the State Grantees for our annual refresher and new miner certifications. We do know the name of the person who provided the training at the time of training. We know the name of the State Grantee that will do future refresher training. However, we do not know the name of the person for the future training as the courses are usually taught by independent contractors.

    Site Specific Hazard training is always provided on an annual basis by the mines designated person. Again, we know who did the previous training but will not know the future person(s) name.

    With only two employees that are actually “miners” I have had to list myself as being my own trainer as well as my Techs trainer for existing and new job task training.

    What is the correct process for creating a plan where I do not know the names of the future Grantee trainers and I am the only one qualified/available for task training myself and a Tech?

    Best Regards,
    Michael

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for writing two good questions.

      I tracked down the article you responded to in the LinkedIn Mining: Safety group that you originally found it in, and have replied there to crowd-source the answer with other group members. I will eventually copy and paste relevant information here.

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