Employers involved with hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities are protected under a group of health and safety requirements known as hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities (HAZWOPER) (29 CFR 1910.120). The HAZWOPER rules are administered by two federal regulatory agencies: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for workplace safety and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for environmental and public safety. The EPA adopted the OSHA HAZWOPER standard verbatim.
HAZWOPER standards cover employers (a person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, except federal agencies) with one or more employees engaged in:
- Cleanup operations at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and where an accumulation or suspected accumulation of hazardous substances creates a threat to the health and safety of people or the environment
- Corrective actions involving cleanup at Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulated sites
- Voluntary cleanup at government-recognized uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
- Treatment, storage, and disposal facilities, known as “TSDFs”
- Emergency response operations for release or substantial threats of release of hazardous substances
- State and local government employees engaged in hazardous waste operations in states that are not covered under OSHA rules (40 CFR Part 311)
HAZWOPER rules put heavy emphasis on training and refresher training. Before a worker, supervisor, or manager can work on a hazardous waste site, HAZWOPER requires many hours of training about general hazards and protections as well as the specific site’s hazards, tasks, and operating procedures. Also, any employee expected to respond to an uncontrolled release of hazardous materials must receive specialized emergency response training. Training requirements vary with the type of operation involved. For example, equipment operators, general laborers, and supervisory personnel involved in hazardous waste removal must have at least 40 hours of off-site instruction and at least 3 days of on-site supervised field experience before they can work on the jobsite. Eight hours of refresher training is required annually for most site workers, on-site managers, and supervisors.
HAZWOPER trainers also require special training for themselves. Trainers must have satisfactorily completed a training program for teaching HAZWOPER courses or the academic credentials and instructional experience necessary for teaching the subjects.
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