The OSHA Construction Standard defines a competent person as someone who is: capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them. A competent person has critical inspection responsibilities regarding excavations. This person must inspect every excavation and protective system under his or her care daily, including areas adjacent to any excavation. Additional inspections must be conducted before starting work and as needed through a shift, for example, when any hazard-increasing occurrence (such as a rainstorm) takes place. When the competent person finds any evidence of a situation that could result in a cave-in, protective system failure or any other hazardous condition, employees are to be immediately removed from the danger area until the problem is fixed.
Regarding whether the competent person mentioned in 29 CFR 1926.651(k)(1) must be always on site, please be advised that there is no blanket requirement that a competent person be always present at a construction jobsite. The competent person can leave the site periodically. It is the responsibility of the competent person to make those inspections necessary to identify situations that could result in hazardous conditions (e.g., possible cave-ins, indications of failure of protective systems, hazardous atmospheres, or other hazardous conditions), and then to ensure that corrective measures are taken. It is, therefore, subject to the conditions present at each individual worksite whether a competent person is required to be always present at the jobsite.