The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that examines and inspects various workplaces. The OSHA is responsible for making sure workers in hazardous situations receive proper safety training. The OSHA accomplishes this by requiring certain employers to provide safety training for workers who face hazardous on-the-job situations.
OSHA 40-Hour HAZWOPER Training
Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) training is a standard of training set by OSHA. HAZWOPER is a set of guidelines that the OSHA created and maintains to regulate emergency services and hazardous waste activities in the United States.
OSHA created the HAZWOPER program to protect workers who are often in hazardous situations or on hazardous worksites. HAZWOPER regulations are extensive and precise, and it’s mandatory to follow them all correctly.
HAZWOPER training is mandatory depending on the industry and/or occupation. The training is required for all workers who perform activities that expose them to or could expose them to hazardous substances.
OSHA HAZWOPER Standards
HAZWOPER standards generally apply to specific types of employers and their employees. Generally, this includes any employers with employees who are exposed (or are potentially exposed) to hazardous substances during:
- Cleaning a site that contains (or may contain) hazardous substances.
- Treating a site with hazardous substances or chemicals.
- Storing or disposing of hazardous waste or substances.
- Working on a site that contains (or may contain) hazardous chemicals or substances.
- Working in an emergency response situation where hazardous waste is, or likely is, present.
Any workers involved in the 5 situations mentioned above are required to have full HAZWOPER training. Even if the specific situations above don’t apply, any workers with any danger of being exposed to (or contaminated by) hazardous chemicals should possibly have the training, too.
Does My Job Require HAZWOPER Training?
You might have questions about whether or not your specific job requires HAZWOPER training. If you’re exposed to hazardous waste during any part of your occupation, then you may need this training.
- Does your job require you to clean sites that contain hazardous substances? Or does your job involve cleaning hazardous waste sites? If yes, then you should have HAZWOPER training.
- Do you voluntarily clean sites officially recognized as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites, including some treatment plants, storage facilities, and disposal facilities? If so, then HAZWOPER training is required.
Levels of HAZWOPER Training
The 40-hour HAZWOPER training course is the most common. But there are actually 3 levels of training available.
- The 40-Hour Training Class
- The 8-Hour Training Refresher Class
- The 24-Hour Training Class
40-Hour HAZWOPER Training
The 40-hour training is the most intensive training available. This option is mandatory for workers who perform job tasks such as hazardous waste cleanup and hazardous waste removal services. Some companies may also require this 40-hour training for OSHA instructors and first-response workers.
After workers complete the 40-hour training, a yearly 8-Hour refresher course is required. Attendance is mandatory for all hazardous waste employees.
The 24-hour training is mandatory for any worker who visits or inspects uncontrolled hazardous waste cleanup locations.
Upon completion of the 40-hour training course, you’ll receive a certificate from the course provider. This certificate confirms that you’ve undergone the required HAZWOPER training. OSHA doesn’t issue certificates.
The 40-hour HAZWOPER certificate is valid for 1-year. After that, you must complete the mandatory yearly 8-hour refresher course. Your certificate remains valid as long as you complete the yearly 8-hour refresher course. If you miss the 8-hour refresher course, then you may have to retake the entire 40-hour course.
The 8-Hour Refresher Course
It’s possible to take the yearly 8-hour refresher course in small segments. For example, you can take a 4-hour course in February. And then take another 4-hour course in May. As long as the course hours total 8-hours, then the hours fulfill the requirement.
You must also complete the yearly 8-hour refresher course by the anniversary of your initial HAZWOPER training or previous refresher course.
If for any reason you can’t complete the 8-hour course within the 12-months, then immediately inform your employee. Your employee must have an official reason on file for why you were unable to complete the 8-hour refresher course. You must also make sure to attend the next 8-hour refresher course that becomes available.
Online hazardous waste safety courses are allowed. But in some cases, online HAZWOPER training is supplemented by hands-on training. This is because some training is only possible when the student receives hands-on training.
Locating HAZWOPER Courses
OSHA doesn’t certify, endorse, or approve training programs or individual trainers. The OSHA also doesn’t maintain a list of HAZWOPER course providers. Your employer should have the information you need for courses. But there are steps you can take to find the courses you need.
- Contact your local OSHA regional office. Your local regional office can inform you of required OSHA standards and help you find local training either in your town or online. Ask about enforcement programs or request to speak with the local HAZWOPER coordinator.
- Contact the compliance assistance specialist at your local OSHA regional office. This specialist can provide general information about resources for compliance assistance. You can also learn about speaking events, seminars, and workshops that count towards the 40-hour requirement.
- Visit the website of the OSHA Training Institute Education Centers. You can learn about courses, locations, and schedules on their website.
- Check to see if any community colleges, universities, or colleges in your area offer HAZWOPER training. Some educational institutions offer HAZWOPER courses as part of adult continuing education programs.
- Contact local professional organizations. For example, the American Society of Safety Engineers, the National Safety Council, and the American Industrial Hygiene Association might have information on HAZWOPER courses.
- Visit the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Environmental Response Training Program website. The EPA maintains a HAZWOPER training resources website.
More About Online Training
The OSHA doesn’t endorse, recommend, certify, or approve training programs or trainers. Although the OSHA does allow some training to occur online, the OSHA states that online training alone isn’t always sufficient to meet HAZWOPER standards. And that online training can only do so much before hands-on training usually becomes necessary.
When deciding to take an online HAZWOPER course, consider the following:
1. Hands-on training is an important part of HAZWOPER training. The OSHA requires that all trainees have at least some hands-on experience and exercises to familiarize themselves with equipment.
Some hands-on training is also required to ensure that trainees learn the equipment and necessary, safe practices safely and securely.
OSHA requires some hands-on training so that trainees have the chance to gain practical experience. Also, hands-on training allows trainers or instructors to observe trainees. This observation reveals whether or not trainees have mastered the necessary skills.
When you enroll in an online course, make sure that you also find a provider that will give you additional hands-on training.
2. When you enroll in a HAZWOPER course, it’s important to have access to the trainer or instructor. Any trainee must have the opportunity to ask questions when anything is unclear.
This is often possible via email, telephone, online chat, or video chat in an online course. When taking an online course, make sure there is contact information for your trainer or instructor. You must have the ability to ask questions and have them answered promptly.
If you take an online course, make sure you receive a certification of completion. For example, 360 Training offers an online 40-hour HAZWOPER course that provides certification of completion. Topics covered in their course include radiation hazards, site characterization, HAZWOPER standards, decontamination methods, and personal protective gear.
Some OSHA Exemptions
OSHA makes HAZWOPER training exemptions for some workers. If an employer must provide workers with HAZWOPER training, any workers who don’t partake in emergency response or cleanup are exempt from training.
An employer with a specific plan of action for dealing with exposure to hazardous materials is possibly exempt, too. For example, say that an employer has a spill response evacuation plan in place for all employees.
The evacuation plan instructs all employees to immediately evacuate the area in case of possible (or certain) exposure to hazardous chemicals. After evacuating, employees are instructed to call a spill remediation or containment company or the fire department. The employees are then instructed to stay away from the premises until the hazardous situation is under control.
If an employer has this type of safety plan in place, the company may be exempt from HAZWOPER training.
Other Types of Workers Who Need Training
Some workers who you might think are exempt from HAZWOPER training are possibly not exempt.
For example, construction workers and workers for utility companies must have training if there’s any chance of on-site contamination.
There are often several on-site workers performing various jobs. And the jobs may not have anything to do with hazardous waste materials. But if the hazardous materials are on the worksite, all workers need HAZWOPER training in case of an emergency.
If the hazardous material is removed or becomes less of a threat, workers without HAZWOPER training can continue to work on the site. However, workers with less training will need personal protective equipment.
Some hospital staff members need HAZWOPER training, as well. But this only applies to certain healthcare workers.
Hospitals must make sure that all hospital workers have training in HAZWOPER, the use of personal protection equipment, first-response techniques, decontamination, or all of them.
Hospital workers must have at least some competency in dealing with hazardous materials safely during an emergency. But the required level of training varies based on the function of the staff member.
To avoid confusion, OSHA created a list to help employees and employers know how to identify a hazardous situation or substance.
According to the OSHA, a situation or substance is hazardous if the following applies:
- Toxic substances are present in high concentrations.
- The event is a life or death situation.
- There is certain danger to life or health.
- There is a severe loss of oxygen in the atmosphere.
- Conditions pose a threat of explosion or fire.
- Immediate evacuation is required.
- The situation requires immediate attention because employees are in danger.
Receiving Credit for HAZWOPER Training
It’s worth repeating that the OSHA doesn’t approve or certify trainers or training programs. The employer is responsible for obtaining certification or documentation, stating that an employee has met the HAZWOPER training requirements.
The employer must have a document in writing that specifically identifies the employee who received the training. The name of the trainer or instructor must appear on the document as well.
The document should also include any past training or experience the employee has that meets HAZWOPER training requirements. And each employee should have a copy of this information in their personnel file.