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Certificate of Competency (COC)

By: Safeopedia Staff
| Last updated: September 26, 2021

What Does Certificate of Competency (COC) Mean?

A certificate of competency (COC) is certification verifying that an individual or business has the abilities required to perform a task safely.

COCs are commonly associated with work in construction, mining, shipping, and other occupations that make use of heavy machinery. In many jurisdictions, a COC is awarded by employers to employees or contractors who have successfully demonstrated their competency in a specific task. Other jurisdictions rely on professional training institutions to issue COCs.

A certificate of competency is also known as a certificate of competence.

Safeopedia Explains Certificate of Competency (COC)

A certificate of competency (COC) is a written document stating that the holder is authorized to complete a particular task or contract. The small business administration (SBA) issues such certificates to those it deems responsible in terms of capability, competency, capacity, credit, integrity, perseverance, and tenacity. The business or individual seeking the COC has the burden of proof to demonstrate its eligibility.

The Main Purposes of COCs

Certificates of competency serve two main purposes with respect to occupational health and safety:

  • They act as a job-specific licensing system that allows an employee to demonstrate their ability to perform a specific task in a specific workplace context
  • They are issued by regulatory agencies to demonstrate that an individual meets the minimum prerequisites to perform a specific job

The job-specific licensing use of COCs is commonly used to certify individuals who work with forklifts and other machinery associated with elevated safety risks. Depending on the jurisdiction and industry, the COC may be provided based solely on participation in a recognized professional training course, by employer training, or by a combination of the two.

OSHA does not use COCs as part of its health and safety regulations. Under OSHA, competency is an informal designation, while formal designations of competency are referred to as “qualifications.” Competence describes the work-related skills and behavior needed to perform activities in a safe manner.

Where Are COCs Used?

COCs are also commonly used in situations where there are multiple ways to meet the competency prerequisites that exist for a given task or job. Here are a few examples:

  • In Florida, holding an elevator COC allows an individual to apply to become a Certified Elevator Technician (CET). However, the CET certificate only has a single set of prerequisites. In this context, the COC establishes that the holder has met the minimum standards necessary to be considered for the CET.
  • In Quebec, there are three types of competency certificates in the construction industry: Apprentice Competency Certificate (ACC), Journeyman Competency Certificate (JCC), and Occupation, for people working on construction sites as laborers or specialized laborers.
  • Occupational diving involves the diver breathing air at greater than atmospheric pressure underwater. These divers are required to hold a COC that demonstrates their ability to safely perform tasks underwater.
  • The COC is a form of license that every mariner requires to work on ships. This demonstrates that they have sufficient knowledge and skill to sail on ocean-going vessels. It certifies that an individual has met a minimum standard, as international conventions require individual nations to ensure that vessels sailing under their flag meet the minimum qualifications necessary to operate safely at sea.
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