Find the answers to your most frequently asked questions about OSHA HAZWOPER training from our team of experts.
What Does HAZWOPER Stand For?
HAZWOPER stands for HAZardous Waste OPerations and Emergency Response.
What Is HAZWOPER?
Every year, the U.S. produces over 400 million tons of hazardous waste. That's waste that is toxic, corrosive, flammable, or explosive. Obviously, we can't just dump this waste anywhere, because it poses a threat to public and environmental health.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates the handling of these materials from "cradle to grave," including proper disposal. "Superfund" and other legislation regulates the cleanup of improper hazardous waste disposal.
HAZWOPER regulates the safety of individuals who work around hazardous waste, whether it's related to regulated disposal sites, improper-disposal cleanup sites, or emergency response to new and accidental or unregulated releases of hazardous substances.
Who Enforces HAZWOPER?
HAZWOPER regulations are written and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Where Can You Find All HAZWOPER Requirements?
When Was HAZWOPER Created?
HAZWOPER as we know it was published in March of 1990 under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120.
Congress requested the program's development in 1986. OSHA used an existing Department of Defense protocol called HAZWOP as a starting place, then they consulted with several other agencies to hammer out the current regulations.
What Is HAZWOPER Training?
HAZWOPER training focuses on the hazards and safety measures that workers need to know before working around substances that are toxic, corrosive, explosive, flammable, or that otherwise pose a threat to their health.
HAZWOPER training does NOT provide information on technical skills for the jobs these workers have to do. It just arms them with the knowledge of how to perform that work safely.
When is HAZWOPER Training Required?
HAZWOPER standards specifically encompass employees or employers who work under conditions specified in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120. This includes:
- Clean-up operations for uncontrolled hazardous waste sites as requested by a government body.
- Clean-up operations as mandated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA).
- Voluntary clean-up operations of uncontrolled hazardous waste sites that have been acknowledged by a government entity.
- Hazardous waste management operations pursuant to 40 CFR 264-265 and the RCRA (or entities allowed by the US Environmental Protection Agency to implement the RCRA).
- Emergency response operations for the potentially harmful dispersal of hazardous substances.
These are the only groups required to take HAZWOPER training by federal regulation. There may also be requirements at the state level. Be sure to check the regulations where you operate.
What Is HAZWOPER Certification?
"HAZWOPER Certification" is not a term officially recognized by OSHA. Typically, when people use this phrase, they're referring to the completion of required HAZWOPER training. At the end of training, you'll receive a certificate of completion, which is where the term comes from.
"HAZWOPER Certification" could also be used by people looking for a "Certified HAZWOPER Trainer" or instructor. However, OSHA doesn't credential or certify HAZWOPER instructors as they do for OSHA 10- or 30-hour Outreach / "DOL card" classes. Instead, look for credentials like academic degrees, amount of training completed, and/or work experience. If you can find a provider with OSHA authorization or approval to teach Outreach, this can be an indicator that the organization takes its material quality and compliance seriously.
How Do You Get HAZWOPER Certified?
If OSHA's HAZWOPER regulations require you to complete HAZWOPER training, you need to take an initial HAZWOPER course. These initial courses involve either 24 or 40 hours of "classroom time," depending on the degree of hazardous substance exposure you'll experience on the job.
In either case, you'll need to pass a final exam to prove you know and understand the material. You're also required to complete a set amount of supervised fieldwork (one day for HAZWOPER 24, three days for HAZWOPER 40).
This includes commercial truckers, school bus drivers, and certain limousine or van drivers.
Ultimately, it's up to your employer to decide whether you've "passed" the training to their satisfaction.
After that, you'll need eight hours of "classroom" training a year to stay compliant.
How Long is HAZWOPER Training Good For?
HAZWOPER needs to be refreshed within 12 months of your last training. You can spread the requirements out during the year, as long as you complete all hours before your anniversary.
Refreshers consist of an 8-hour HAZWOPER course, no matter what length your initial training had to be.
What Happens If Your HAZWOPER Refresher Is Late (More Than 12 Months)?
If more than a year passes without completing your refresher course, OSHA leaves the decision about how to proceed up to your employer (based on a letter of interpretation from 3/7/2007).
If your employer thinks you have the necessary skills to do your job safely, you can simply complete refresher training. If not, you should repeat the initial course to bring your skills up to par.
OSHA says that the decision can’t be passed off to an employee or a trainer. Legally, it's the responsibility of the employer.
Can You Take HAZWOPER Training Online?
Online training can be an efficient and effective way to do your HAZWOPER "book learning." But OSHA is very clear that initial HAZWOPER training can’t be completed with an online course by itself.
Your employer must supplement any online course with:
- Supervised personal protective equipment (PPE) practice, including respirators and full protective gear.
- Site-specific training to familiarize you with the protocols particular to your duties and employer.
- The required amount of directly supervised fieldwork (one day for HAZWOPER 24, three days for HAZWOPER 40). The lessons above MUST be separate from your fieldwork.
For refresher training, OSHA doesn't require a hands-on component. In a letter of interpretation on 10/11/1994, OSHA said as long as your employer can confirm that you demonstrate proficiency in hands-on tasks, online training can fulfill your refresher requirements alone.