Who Is the Competent Person for Online MSHA Part 46 Training? (How to Get It Right!)

MSHA requires a “competent person” for all MSHA Part 46 training at surface mines. You probably know that, and our What Is a MSHA Part 46 Competent Person? article explains that general requirement in more detail if you’re interested.

But what about when a miner completes ONLINE TRAINING for their MSHA Part 46 training requirement? Who’s the competent person then?

And does that answer, about who’s the competent person, differ in various training scenarios? For example, is the answer different if you’re a surface miner who works for a big surface mining company and who completes online training at the worksite than if you’re an independent contractor preparing to come in to work at a surface mine where you’re not a full-time employee?

We’ll answer those questions for you in the article below.

Who’s The Part 46 Competent Person When Online Training is Completed?

We’re going to break this answer down for you into three different scenarios:

  1. Miners working at a surface mine
  2. Contractors working at a surface mine
  3. Sole proprietor independent contractors working at a surface mine

Along the way, we’ll also give you some information about the training plan and the person responsible for safety health, but neither of those are the primary focus of this article (which is about the competent person). Watch for similar articles on those two issues to follow this article.

What Does MSHA Say About the Part 46 Competent Person Role?

We’ve already mentioned that we’ve written an entire article that addresses the MSHA Part 46 Competent Person role in a general sense, but as a quick reminder, here’s how the MSHA regulations define the term “competent person” in 46.2:

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.

Notice a few key things in this definition:

  • The production-operator or independent contractor specify who the competent person is. MSHA doesn’t make this decision, and neither the production-operator nor the independent contractor have to select someone who’s been approved by MSHA for this role.
  • The definition addresses both production-operator and the independent contractor, and essentially gives them the same responsibility and freedom (note that this is how the MSHA Part 46 regulations define independent contractor: “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”).
  • The competent person requirements involve a requirement to communicate the training subject matter effectively and another to evaluate if the training was effective (these two points are covered in more detail in our earlier article on MSHA Part 46 Competent Persons and aren’t the focus of this article)

For more on this, see this MSHA Letter of Interpretation and Guidance.

Now let’s turn to our three specific scenarios to see how this competent person determination works out. Along the way, we’ll briefly mention the training plan and person responsible for safety and health training requirements as well.


The Part 46 Competent Person for a Miners at a Surface Mine After Completing Online Training

Given everything you’ve learned above, you can probably guess the first thing we’re going to say about the competent person for all training, including online training, for a full-time miner employed at a surface mine who’s completing MSHA part 46 training: The surface mine owner-operator specifies who the competent person is for each safety training topic.

If it’s instructor-led training (ILT) or field-based training, it’s probably simple enough to know who the mine owner/operator will choose. The person leading the training–the instructor.

But that same determination is not so obvious for online training. For example, many mine operators assume they should name the company that created or provided the online training to their miners as the competent person. That’s a reasonable assumption, but it’s wrong. Why? Well, for two main reasons. First, because MSHA requires a person, not a company, to be designated on the training plan as a competent person. And second, because MSHA requires that the competent person be available for questions during training. This includes online training. And in most cases, the online training provider doesn’t provide live training support.

Instead, the competent person for online Part 46 training is commonly an employee of the mine, usually the same person who provides the miners instructor-led, classroom-based training, or field-based training.

So that addresses the competent person issue. In addition, in this scenario, the production operator needs to create a training plan and specify a person responsible for safety and health training at the mine. For more information about this, please see our free downloadable Guide to MSHA Part 46 Training.

So to wrap this section up:

  • Competent person: Not the online training provider and instead typically someone at the mine.
  • Person responsible for safety and health training: Same as above–someone at the mine/employed by the mine.
  • MSHA Part 46 Training Plan: The mine operator/owner has to create this.

The Part 46 Competent Person for Contractors Sending Multiple Employees To Work at Surface Mine After They’ve Completed Online Training

Although we all see that a “normal” mining employee at a surface mine is different than a person who works for a company that’s been contracted to send employees to work at a surface mine, MSHA treats these people the same way and imposes the same training requirements on them and on their employers. (For more on this, see our recent free, on-demand recorded webinar about the MSHA Part 46 Training Requirements).

So, the answers to the big question posed by this article and the related questions are the same as well:

  • Competent person: Again, it’s NOT the provider who created the online training materials. And in most cases, it’s someone who works for this contractor company (not someone at the surface mine), as designated by the contractor company.
  • Person responsible for safety and health training: Same as above. Someone who works for the contractor company, most typically.
  • MSHA Part 46 Training Plan: The contractor company has to make their own.

The Part 46 Competent Person for Sole Proprietor Contractor Companies After They’ve Completed Online Training

What we’re talking about here is a single person owns his/her own company (is the sole proprietor), is the sole employee, and contracts out to work at a surface mine.

In this case, that one person can fill all roles and must complete all responsibilities, as listed below:

  • Competent person: The sole proprietor can designate himself/herself as the competent person or another person outside the company who has sufficient ability, training, knowledge, or experience to provide training.
  • Person responsible for safety and health training: Same person (above)
  • MSHA Part 46 Training Plan: This is created by the same person (above)
  • Learner (person completing the training): You guessed it…the same person (above)

Wrap-Up: The MSHA Part 46 Competent Person for Online Mining Safety Training

Hope that answers your questions. Let us know if we’ve left something unclear, still.

In the meantime, look for specific articles on the issues related to creating the MSHA Part 46 Training Plan and the MSHA Part 46 Person Responsible for Safety and Health Training at the mine.

And don’t forget to download the free guide below, which explains those two things and much, much more. Plus–it’s free!

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Online MSHA Compliance Guide

Download our free guide to learn how online tools can help you create safer work conditions at a mine site, stay compliant with MSHA Part 46 regulations, and manage your training program more efficiently.

Download Free Guide

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Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto

Jeffrey Dalto is an Instructional Designer and the Senior Learning & Development Specialist at Convergence Training. He's worked in training/learning & development for 20 years, in safety and safety training for more than 10, is an OSHA Authorized Outreach Trainer for General Industry OSHA 10 and 30, and is a member of the committee creating the upcoming ANSI Z490.2 national standard on online environmental, health, and safety training.

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