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OSHA HAZWOPER Training Requirements Explained

Anfeald professionals supply hazardous waste and emergency response (HAZWOPER) training for employers in many different industries. Clients often ask, “What are the different training required under OSHA’s HAZWOPER regulation?” and “What sessions should my employees attend?”  This article explains basic OSHA HAZWOPER training requirements and will help you select the right training for your organization.

Operational Categories in the HAZWOPER Regulation

The HAZWOPER regulation for general industry is 29 CFR 1910.120. The HAZWOPER regulation for construction is 29 CFR 1926.65. These two regulations are the same and cover hazardous material cleanup operations for all OSHA-regulated employers. This article cites the general industry regulation for convenience, but citations correspond to both industries equally.

The training requirements are based on the site category where employees complete their work. The regulation describes five operational categories that fall within the regulation’s scope, with three associated training-categories that have unique but overlapping learning goals and varying training length requirements.  The different operational categories or site types are described in 1910.120(a)(1).

  • Cleanup operations required by a governmental body, whether Federal, state local or other involving hazardous substances that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Corrective actions involving cleanup operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.)
  • Voluntary cleanup operations at sites recognized by Federal, state, local or other governmental bodies as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Operations involving hazardous waste that are conducted at treatment, storage, disposal (TSD) facilities regulated by 40 CFR Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA; or by agencies under agreement with United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) to implement RCRA regulations
  • Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard.” From 29 CFR 1910.120(a)(1)
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In the first three operational categories, OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) describes planned environmental remediation at different sites that one or more government agencies have acknowledged.  Examples include unpermitted landfills, superfund sites, abandoned industrial sites, brownfield sites, former weapons manufacturing facilities, and similar locations. Often, the work at these sites, and especially brownfield sites and voluntary cleanup sites involves not just remediation, but preparation for the demolition and/or construction of buildings, or the remodel of existing buildings. This work often involves construction general contractors, environmental engineers, excavation firms, surveyors, locators, occupational safety and health firms and other similar specialists and tradespeople. The work is complex and full remediation often takes years to complete.

The fourth operational category involves hazardous waste handling at facilities that are purpose-built to receive, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste collected during remediation and emergency response; these are called TSD facilities.

The first four categories in the regulation encompass many workplaces but the common feature for all of them is that they describe fixed sites where the chemicals and the hazards are understood, and remediation operations are planned. Often, the individuals that work at these sites specialize in construction and remediation-related services.

The fifth operational category is different – It describes work that involves the mitigation of chemical releases, and their cleanup, on an emergency basis. Sites can include public and private facilities, manufacturing facilities, food and beverage plants, chemical plants, crude-oil tank farms, and any other location where hazardous materials are used, and the unintentional releases of those materials could occur during normal operations. The individuals that work at these sites typically have a regular job they perform that is associated with the location’s primary operation, and when a chemical release occurs, they respond. In some industries, especially upstream and midstream oil and gas, outside contractors complete the actual hands-on cleanup in many cases.


Training Categories in the HAZWOPER Regulation

Once you understand the operational types included in HAZWOPER, it is critical to understand how OSHA defines the training categories and the requirements associated with each category. There are three training categories:

  1. Site Worker
  2. TSD
  3. Emergency Response

These three training categories correspond to the five different operational categories previously mentioned in this article. Site worker training applies to employees that work at planned remediation sites (operational categories one through three), TSD training applies to employees that work at TSD facilities (operational category four), and emergency responder training is required for employees that work at uncontrolled  emergency sites (operational category five).


Site Worker Training

29 CFR 1910.120(e) describes site worker training requirements.  This training is typically referred to as 40-hour HAZWOPER training, or simply site-worker training, and requires an initial 40-hour session of off-site instruction and three days of field experience under a competent person.  Annual refresher training for site workers is also required. 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(8) addresses refresher training for previously trained 40-hour site workers; it is eight hours long. It’s worth noting that under 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3)(ii), OSHA allows an employer to reduce the amount of training required for occasional site workers, saving time and money:

“Workers on site only occasionally for a specific limited task (such as, but not limited to, ground water monitoring, land surveying, or geophysical surveying) and who are unlikely to be exposed over permissible exposure limits and published exposure limits shall receive a minimum of 24 hours of instruction off the site, and the minimum of one day actual field experience under the direct supervision of a trained, experienced supervisor.”  [1910.120(e)(3)(ii)]

OSHA HAZWOPER site worker training provisions also call for an additional eight hours of specialized management training, in addition to the basic site worker training, for onsite supervisors and managers.  This training must include, but is not limited to additional related topics such as the employer’s safety and health program and the associated employee training program, personal protective equipment program, spill containment program, and health hazard monitoring procedure and techniques.

Site-Worker (40-Hour)

A site-worker is someone who works at a remediation site on a day-to-day basis and completes a variety of tasks associated with hazardous materials remediation within their area of specialty.  Site-workers spend the bulk of their work time at the actual remediation site. 40-hours of initial training and eight hours of annual retraining are required.  In addition, three days of field experience under the direct supervision of a trained, experienced supervisor is also required.  [29 CFR 1910.120 (e)(3)(i)]

Occasional Site-Worker

Occasional site-workers perform specialty services on a periodic basis but are not necessarily at the site on a day-to-day basis.  Surveyors are one example as they are on-site periodically for specialized tasks but do not work on the site every day.  This training category is infrequently used; most owners and general contractor’s prefer that occasional site workers complete the full 40-hour course to ensure adequate knowledge but that is optional. 24-hours of initial training and eight hours of annual retraining are required.  In addition, one day of field experience under the direct supervision of a trained, experienced supervisor is also required.  [29 CFR 1910.120 (e)(3)(i)]

Manager or Supervisor (Site-Worker)

Onsite managers and supervisors are responsible for directing others must complete the same training as the general site workers and additional training to enhance their ability to provide guidance and make informed decisions. Training is both time and competency based.  Initial and refresher training are both required.  The minimum training time for managers and supervisors under site-worker provisions is 8-hours.  [29 CFR 1910.120 (e)(4)]

TSD Training

Training for work at TSD facilities is described in 29 CFR 1910.120(p)(7)(i).  This applies only to the fourth operational category.  Twenty-four hours of initial training and eight hours of annual retraining are required.

Emergency Response Training

Emergency responder training is covered under 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6) and applies to the fifth operation or site type mentioned at the start of this article.  There are five training levels associated with emergency response operations. The levels are progressive.

First Responder Awareness - Level I

The only responsibilities for this level are the correct identification of a chemical release and a report to authorities on an emergency basis.  There are no other responsibilities for this individual.  Select this training option if you store or use chemicals in your operation but do not want your staff to have any responsibility for managing the release. Initial and annual retraining is required.  Training is competency based. Anfeald’s typical class length is four hours. [29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(6)(i) and (q)(8)]

First Responder Operations - Level II

Responders at this level perform defensive operations that do not expose them to hazards.  They do not stop the release at its source but they do take other steps to manage the release when it is safe to do so and exposure isn’t possible.  Select this option if you want to avoid excessive risk to your staff but need them to help reduce the impact of the release while waiting for your assigned mitigation and cleanup crew.  If you train to this level, you should contract with a third-party firm to mitigate and clean-up releases. Initial and annual retraining is required.  Training is time and competency based. Anfeald’s typical class length is eight hours.[29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(6)(ii) and (q)(8)]

Hazardous Materials Technician - Level III

The Hazmat Technician performs all activities related to defense and mitigation. These employees stop releases at the source and complete all cleanup operations. Select this option if you intend to build and equip a fully-capable hazmat team. Twenty-four hours of initial training is required with a competency-based annual refresher. Anfeald’s refresher class is typically eight hours. [29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(6)(iii) and (q)(8)]

Hazardous Materials Specialist - Level IV

Hazmat Specialists receive training on specific hazardous materials, specific situations and they also serve as liaisons to government agencies.  Select this option for key team members that require enhanced training on specific chemicals, specific storage or transportation situations and additional training on interfacing well with authorities.  This level is infrequently used. Initial and annual retraining is required.  Training is competency based. Anfeald’s typical course length is variable based on client’s needs. The hazardous materials technician (level III) course is a prerequisite. [29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(6)(iv) and (q)(8)]

Incident Commander - Level V

Incident Commanders assume control of a scene and all hazmat teams members report to an incident commander during an incident.  If you intend to develop and equip a fully-capable hazmat team, at least one incident commander is required, and often several, depending on the team size and the nature and scope of the potential releases. Initial and annual retraining is required.  Training is competency based. Anfeald’s typical course length is eight hours. The hazardous materials technician (level III) course is a prerequisite. [29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(6)(v) and (q)(8)]

Does 40-Hour Site Worker Training Fulfill 24-Hour Hazmat Technician Training Requirements?

Some employers believe that a 40-hour HAZWOPER site worker class under paragraph (e) is an advanced version of the 24-hour hazmat technician class under paragraph (q). This is not true. These classes have unique requirements. 40-hour site worker training is designed for people that work at recognized remediation sites while 24-hour hazmat technician training is designed for people that respond to emergency chemical releases without regard to location.

If your employees, or those of your contractor, are cleaning up hazardous materials due to an emergency release of a hazardous substance, including crude oil, this falls under the 24-hour hazmat technician training requirement and not the 40-hour site worker requirement.

In an interpretation letter dated 28 April 2008 to Robert E Carson, OSHA addresses this topic. The author of the letter to OSHA posed the following question: “…could an individual qualify as a general site worker and hazardous materials technician under the same training program?” OSHA responded.

“No. Hazardous waste site cleanup training under HAZWOPER paragraph 1910.120(e) [site-worker] would not qualify a worker as a hazardous materials technician as described in 1910.120(q)(6)(iii) [emergency response] of the standard. The conditions under which these two types of personnel operate and the training they require are generally quite different.”

Employers that are using the 40-hour site worker class under paragraph (e) to address emergency responder training requirements under paragraph (q) are effectively non-compliant with the HAZWOPER regulation and should reconsider their approach since this subjects them to citations and penalties and worse, employees won;t be trained correctly for the hazards.

OSHA has posted additional guidance on their topical HAZWOPER page that further clarifies these requirements.