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FAQ for OSHA Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Training [29 CFR 1910.120]

Who is covered by the HAZWOPER Standard?

OSHA requires employees who perform duties that fall under three basic categories to attend HAZWOPER training.

  1. Cleanup activities at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (i.e., superfund sites)
  2. Hazardous waste operations at:
    1. Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facilities (TSDFs)
  3. Emergency response operations* for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard

     *Emergency response operations do not include:

  • Responses to incidental releases that can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of release.
  • Responses to releases of hazardous substances where there is no potential safety or health hazard (i.e., fire, explosion, or chemical exposure).

What level of HAZWOPER training do I need?

Depending on your category above, you are required to attend specific levels of HAZWOPER training. The rules for personnel who work at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and TSDFs (category 1 or 2a above) are very clear, and these types of industries follow the training regulations found at 29 CFR 1910.120(e) and 29 CFR 1910.120(p) respectively.

Generators of hazardous waste (category 2b above) may follow the requirements for TSDFs at 29 CFR 1910.120(p) in their waste generation areas and 29 CFR 1910.120(q) for emergency response (see below) in other locations in their facility, or they may follow (q) throughout the facility as long as the training covers all topics for both standards, at the appropriate level of response.

Employees who respond to releases of hazardous substances regardless of their location (category 3 above) are further categorized in 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6) to fall under one of five levels. Their level of training is based on their responsibilities during an emergency response.

  1. First Responder Awareness Level (FRAL)
    • Individuals who are likely to witness or discover a hazardous substance release and are trained to initiate the emergency response by notifying the proper authorities of the release. They take no further action beyond notification.
  2. First Responder Operations Level (FROL) or First Responder Operations Level (FROL) Annual Refresher
    • Individuals who respond to (potential) releases of hazardous substances for the purpose of protecting nearby persons, property, or the environment. They respond defensively in order to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures.
  3. Hazardous Materials Technician (HMT)
    • Individuals who respond to (potential) releases for the purpose of stopping the release. They respond offensively and will approach the point of release in order to plug, patch, or otherwise stop the hazardous substance release.
  4. Hazardous Materials Specialist (HMS)
    • Individuals who respond with and provide support to HMTs. Their response activities are similar to an HMT but require direct/specific knowledge of substances on site. They also act as the site liaison with Federal, state, local and other government authorities.
  5. On Scene Incident Commander (IC)
    • Individuals who will assume control of the incident scene.

What job titles or duties require HAZWOPER training?

Some job titles/department personnel that fall under the emergency response category of HAZWOPER include, but are not limited to.

  • First responders, Hazmat team members, Incident Commanders.
  • Fire and rescue personnel, police, and medical personnel.
  • Emergency coordinators/designees at various types of facilities, including those that fall under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations for hazardous waste generation, e.g., Large Quantity Generator (LQG) and Small Quantity Generator (SQG) sites.
  • DOT Hazmat employees (i.e., anyone who directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety) including those who:
    • Perform pre-transportation hazmat duties (e.g., select, fill, close, mark and/or label hazmat packagings, write or review shipping papers, or provide emergency response information for hazmat shipments.) [49 CFR 171.1(b)]
    • Perform transport functions (i.e., loading, movement, unloading, and storage incidental to movement.) [49 CFR 171.1(c)]
    • Manufacture, recondition, repair, test, etc. a packaging or a component of a packaging that is qualified for use in the transportation of a hazardous material in commerce. [49 CFR 171.1(a)]
  • Lab and manufacturing personnel, warehouse staff, maintenance workers, and other employees likely to witness or discover a hazardous substance release and initiate the emergency response.

Do I still need HAZWOPER training if I don’t fall under any of these categories?

The answer is, most likely yes.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires some level of HAZWOPER training unless the employer can demonstrate that their operations do not involve (or have the reasonable possibility of involving) employee exposure to any safety or health hazards.

The EPA regulations found in RCRA 40 CFR part 262 require that personnel attend training to familiarize themselves not only with proper hazardous waste management, but emergency procedures for the wastes handled at the facility as well. Most agencies generally acknowledge OSHA HAZWOPER training to fulfill this requirement.

“… facility employees that receive emergency response training pursuant to Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations 29 CFR 1910.120(p)(8) and 1910.120(q), the … generator is not required to provide separate emergency response training pursuant to this section, provided that … training meets all the conditions … in this section.” [40 CFR 262.17(a)(7)(i)(D)]

The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations found in 49 CFR part 704 also require that hazmat employees attend safety training. Most agencies generally acknowledge OSHA HAZWOPER training to fulfill this requirement. 

“OSHA, EPA, and other training. Training conducted by employers to comply with the hazard communication programs required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor (29 CFR 1910.120 or 1910.1200) or the Environmental Protection Agency (40 CFR 311.1), … may be used to satisfy the training requirements in paragraph (a) of this section to the extent that such training addresses the training components specified in paragraph (a) of this section.” [49 CFR 172.704(b)]

PLEASE NOTE: State regulatory agencies may have more stringent and/or additional requirements than the federal government. Employers are responsible for certifying that employees meet all agency training requirements.


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