Your Workplace and the HAZWOPER Standard

Does your workplace have response activities that could be related to “emergency response”?  Are these activities subject to the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard, 29 CFR 1910.120?

In addition to response activities, cleanup sites may be considered or may become hazardous waste sites, requiring specific training and control measures, if certain criteria apply. 

The term “emergency response”, per the HAZWOPER standard, applies to response activities where there is an uncontrolled release of hazardous substance, or where an uncontrolled release is likely.

When the following or similar conditions may develop as a consequence of a release of hazardous substances or threat of release, such situations would be considered emergency situations requiring an emergency response effort:

  • High concentrations of toxic substances
  • Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) environments
  • Situations that present an oxygen deficient atmosphere
  • Conditions that pose a fire or explosion hazard
  • Situations that require an evacuation of the area
  • Situations that require immediate attention because of the danger posed to employees in the area.

A clean up operation may fall under the requirements of the HAZWOPER standard as a Post-Emergency Response Clean up Operation or as a completely separate Hazardous Waste Site Clean up Operation. 

Upon completion of an emergency response, any subsequent cleanup involving hazardous substances must be performed in accordance with sections (b) through (o) of the HAZWOPER standard.  If, however, the employees conducting the cleanup operations are employees of the plant property where the work is being performed, those employees may be trained according to OSHA’s Emergency Action Plan standard (29 CFR 1910.37 and 1926.35), OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard, (29 CFR 1910.134 and 1926.103, Hazard Communication standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) and other appropriate safety and health training.

If cleanup activity does not originate from an emergency response, the activity may fall under HAZWOPER as a hazardous waste site cleanup operation if the site is:

  • Identified or listed by a government agency as an uncontrolled hazardous waste site
  • Listed or proposed for listing on the National Priority List (NPL)
  • Listed or proposed for listing on a State priority list
  • Regulated as a corrective clean-up action covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

Training requirements vary depending up the activity – whether it is an emergency response or a hazardous waste site clean up.   For worksite response and recovery efforts not covered by HAZWOPER, workers must be trained as required by any other applicable General Industry (1910) and Construction Industry (1926) OSH standards.  Examples of these types of standards would be:

  • Confined Space entry 29 CFR 1910.146
  • Hazard Communication 29 CFR 1910.1200
  • Personal Protective Equipment 29 CFR 1910.132
  • Bloodborne Pathogens 29 CFR 1910.1030

Training for workers is dependent upon the extent workers are expected to respond.  For example:

  • Workers who may witness or discover a release are expected to only notify the proper authorities must be trained at first responder awareness level.

29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(i)

  • Workers who respond in a defensive fashion such as containing the release from a safe distance must be trained  to the first responder operations level.  29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(ii)
  • Workers expected to approach the point of a hazardous substance release for the purpose of stopping the release must be trained to either the hazardous materials technician or specialist level.  29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(iii) or 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(iv)

Workers who temporary perform immediate emergency support work (excavator operations) may be considered skilled support personnel (SSP).  SSP must be provided an initial site briefing covering personal protective equipment use, the chemical hazards involved, and the tasks to be performed. 

Employers must evaluate the role and tasks workers will perform and train them appropriately.

All workers performing post-emergency response removal of hazardous substances, health hazards, or materials contaminated with them must receive training as required by 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(11).  Upon completion of the emergency response, workers involved in subsequent cleanup or removal of hazardous substances must be trained according to HAZWPER paragraph (e), unless they are conducting the cleanup operations at the plant property where they work.  These plant employees may be trained  according to 29 CFR 1910.38, 29 CFR 1910.134, and 29 CFR 1910.1200 and other appropriate safety and health training in lieu of complying with HAZWOPER (b) – (o).

If your facility had an accidental chemical release tomorrow, do you know

  • What the release might be
  • What are the hazards involved
  • What personal protective and respiratory equipment would be necessary
  • To what level of response are you trained

Are you and your co-workers prepared?


Reference Materials:
29 CFR 1910.120 and 1926.65 - Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response
OSH Instruction CPL 02-02-059 April 24, 1998, Inspection Procedures for the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, 29 CFR 1910.120 and 1926.65, Paragraph (1):  Emergency Response to Hazardous Substance Releases.
OSHA Instruction CPL 02-02-071, November 5, 2003, Technical Enforcement and Assistance Guide for Hazardous Waste Site and RERA Corrective Action Clean-up Operations HAZWOPER 1910.120 (o) Directive.
Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, Revised 1997, OSHA Publication # 3114.

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