HazMat Training Requirements Part 1: HAZWOPER Structure and Applicability
The training requirements of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (aka the HAZWOPER) Standard found in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.120 are often misunderstood. To test your understanding, let’s start with a simple question:
True or False: The 40-hour initial and corresponding 8-hour refresher are the only training requirements under OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard.
Unfortunately, the answer is false. But it’s much more complicated than that.
13 Levels of Initial Training
The HAZWOPER standard describes (with a whopping 257 instances of the words train, trained or training) 13 levels of initial training requirements, 9 of which have training duration requirements. Those 13 levels of initial training requirements are broken into three categories:
- hazardous waste sites
- treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) facilities
- emergency response operations
The biggest source of confusion is the structure of the standard itself. One of the most important sections to understand is the applicability statements:
Hazardous substance clean-up operations within the scope of paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (a)(1)(iii) [Hazardous waste sites] of this section must comply with all paragraphs of this section except paragraphs (p) and (q). [1910.120(a)(2)(ii)]
Operations within the scope of paragraph (a)(1)(iv) [TSD facilities] of this section must comply only with the requirements of paragraph (p) of this section. [1910.120(a)(2)(iii)]
Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances which are not covered by paragraphs (a)(1)(i) through (a)(1)(iv) of this section must only comply with the requirements of paragraph (q) of this section. [1910.120(a)(2)(iv)]
Here’s the simplified version:
- TSD facility operations must only comply with paragraph (p).
- Emergency response operations must only comply with paragraph (q).
- Hazardous waste site operations must comply with everything except paragraphs (p) and (q).
Unless you understand these applicability statements, you may reference the incorrect paragraphs for training requirements and therefore not be in compliance with the HAZWOPER standard. For example, you might mistakenly read the standard’s first section that deals with training requirements – paragraph e, that is – and stop there (before getting to paragraphs p or q), not realizing that this section discusses requirements for hazardous waste sites only.
Now that we’ve highlighted applicability, let’s review the specific training requirements for each. Because, even if a facility has correctly identified the paragraph of the HAZWOPER standard which applies to their training needs, there are still decisions that must be made to determine the level of training required for their employees.
Training Requirements for Hazardous Waste Site Operations
The first category, hazardous waste site operations, includes work at the following locations:
Clean-up operations required by a governmental body, whether Federal, state, local or other involving hazardous substances that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (including, but not limited to, the EPA's National Priority Site List (NPL), state priority site lists, sites recommended for the EPA NPL, and initial investigations of government identified sites which are conducted before the presence or absence of hazardous substances has been ascertained); [29 CFR 1910.120(a)(1)(i)]
Corrective actions involving clean-up operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.); [1910.120(a)(1)(ii)]
Voluntary clean-up operations at sites recognized by Federal, state, local or other governmental bodies as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites; [1910.120(a)(1)(iii)]
For hazardous waste sites that fit one of these three definitions, employee training will fall into one (or more) of the six levels – dictated by the responsibilities of and potential exposure to the employee – summarized in Table 1.
Training Requirements for Emergency Response Operations
Usually, employees who respond to and/or perform cleanup of chemical releases on an emergency basis also perform other duties as a part of their normal job functions. The training requirements under this category only apply to work NOT performed at a hazardous waste site or a TSD facility. For emergency response operations, employee training falls into one (or more) of the five levels summarized in Table 3.
Hopefully this article has provided a clearer explanation of the structure and applicability of the HAZWOPER standard as it pertains to training requirements. Check out Part 2: Responding to Emergency Releases, where we will dive a little deeper into the emergency response operational category.