OSHA developed the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) program to protect individuals working at hazardous sites. The agency enacted the program in the 1990s to protect the lives of workers during the initial stages of a chemical release emergency and enforce a subsequent clean-up of the site once it has been addressed.
Who Should take a HAZWOPER Certification?
HAZWOPER certification is applicable to all employees who offer emergency response services during the release of dangerous substances.
“The HAZWOPER standard requires employers to provide training to employees who provide emergency response services during releases of hazardous substances, 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6),” Richard E. Fairfax, Directorate of Enforcement Programs, highlighted in his letter from July 25, 2007.
The HAZWOPER compliance course is applicable to five groups of employees and employers. The groups include employees who are exposed or likely to be exposed to hazardous chemicals or engaged in any of the following five duties as indicated in 1910.120(a)(1)(i-v) and 1926.65(a)(1)(i-v):
- Corrective actions that may involve clean-up operations of sites that are covered under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.)
- Voluntary clean-up duties at sites that are recognized by the local, state, federal, or any other governmental body as an uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
- Clean-up operations involving hazardous substances, enforced by the local, state, federal, or any other governmental body
- Emergency response operations to address the release of a potential threat or hazardous substance
- Actions involving dealing with hazardous waste and are conducted at treatment, storage, and disposal facilities regulated by the Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA, or by agencies under agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement RCRA regulations.
Employees and employers meeting the requirements are required to complete the HAZWOPER certification. The level of training required defers and depends on the role that the employee performs.
“The level of training the employer must provide depends on the role the employee will perform in a response. Employees must be trained to the first responder operations level if they will be part of the initial response for protecting persons, property, or the environment from the effects of the hazardous substance release. Employees who respond for the purpose of actually stopping the release must be trained as hazardous materials technicians,” as noted by OSHA.
What are the Various Levels of HAZWOPER Certification?
HAZWOPER training is offered in three levels: 8-hour refresher training, 24-hour training and 40-hour training. These levels offers the HAZWOPER certification for those with varying job tasks.
Here’s a break-down of the three levels of the HAZWOPER certification:
This level is the annual refresher required by those that hold HAZWOPER certification It is required within 12 months of taking the 24 and 40-hour course, and is needed every year to maintain compliance.
This training is best suited for employees who deal with the clean-up of contaminated hazardous waste sites. “Hazardous materials technicians must receive at least 24 hours of training at the operations level and satisfy certain additional competencies listed in the standard. See 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(ii) and 1910.120(q)(6)(iii).”
The last level is best suited for employees who perform actions pertaining to the treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste.
How Long is the HAZWOPER certification Valid for?
The HAZWOPER certification is valid for up to 12 months, after which a refresher training is required to maintain the certification. As indicated by 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(8), a refresher training for all operation and technician level employees is required to offer them the latest information and skills they need to perform their jobs safely.
HAZWOPER compliance training is not designed to train workers with specific technical response activities, such as spill remediation. It trains workers to remain safe when performing a chemical response action and provides them with the knowledge needed to comply with hazardous waste management regulations and standards set by OSHA.