OSEA Safety Blog

24 vs. 40 Hour Hazwopers: Which do you Need?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019 George Morreti

The Hazwoper rule addresses three separate activities. Hazard waste operations (HazWOP) including site cleanups, operations at RCRA regulated treatment storage and disposal facilities (TSDF) and emergency responses (ER). If you look at the rule; paragraphs 1910.120(b) through .120(o) applies to cleanup of haz-waste sites; paragraph (p) addresses operations at RCRA regulated TSDF operations and Paragraph 1910.120(q) deals with emergency responses. Note paragraph (a) contains information including definitions that apply to the whole rule. It may have made better sense for OSHA to have created separate rules: one for waste site cleanups; one for RCRA TSDF operations; and one for emergency responses.

The requirement for 40 hrs of initial training applies specifically to personnel working at clean-up operations of hazardous waste sites. These sites could be abandoned such as Superfund sites OR they could be at an existing facility where they fall under a RCRA Corrective Action. This 40 hr requirement applies to personnel who are involved in tasks where there is a likely contact with hazardous materials. The rule allows for a lesser amount of training (i.e. 24 hrs) for personnel at hazardous waste site remediations who are involved in tasks where there is little likely hood of coming in direct contact with hazardous materials (or not encountering levels above the PEL). This might include surveying, remote sensing geophysical surveys (e.g. ground penetrating radar) groundwater or surface water sampling and other non-intrusive activities especially those in the support zone.

However, from a practical standpoint if you perform these types of tasks at various hazardous waste sites, there very well may be instances where hazardous materials would be encountered even when performing so called non-intrusive activities. I, as an example, have sampled groundwater monitoring wells where the well contained only product such as chlorobenzenes or hexachlorobutadiene (i.e. NO WATER!!) and we wore respirators were worn while performing the sampling.

So from a practical standpoint it would be prudent to have personnel who perform any work at hazardous waste site remediations including those involved in so-called non-intrusive activities (geophysics, surveying, environmental sampling, or work in the support zone) to receive 40 hours of training.

Work at RCRA regulated treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDF), which is covered in paragraph(p) requires 24 hrs of initial training.

The last part of the rule, 1910.120(q) deals with emergency response. The training requirements for emergency responders vary depending on what level of emergency responder you are.

  • First Responder-Awareness Level has no set duration of training but need to be able to recognize that a chemical release has occurred and they should take no action other than reporting it, pulling an alarm, or evacuating themselves or nearby worker who may be in harms way.
  • First Responder - Operations Level are personnel who respond to a chemical release from a defensive position with no direct contact with the hazardous material such as remotely turning off a valve or diking at an advanced location (e.g. to prevent the chemical from reaching a drain ). These people require a minimum of 8 hrs of training.
  • HazMat Specialist and Technician Levels are personnel who would enter the area of the chemical release (and likely come in direct contact with the hazardous material or its vapors) to attempt to stop the release and to control the spread of the released materials. These personnel need 24 hrs of initial training.
  • Incident Commander - needs at least 24 hrs of training plus additional training to direct onsite responders and to interface with outside responders if necessary

The regulation specifies no emergency responder level that requires 40 hrs of initial training.

What about the cleanup operations needed after the emergency response has stopped the further release of the chemical and contained the released material to keep it from spreading? This is where it gets a little grey. In 1910.120(a)(3), in Definitions section of the rule, it seems to say… Post emergency response means that portion of an emergency response performed after the immediate threat of a release has been stabilized or eliminated and clean-up of the site has begun. If post emergency response is performed by an employer's own employees who were part of the initial emergency response, it is considered to be part of the initial response and not post emergency response. This suggests that the clean-up could be performed by people who received 24 hrs. of training (i.e. the same people who did the emergency response)

However, paragraph(q)(11) states in Post emergency response operations, that upon completion of the emergency response it may be required to remove hazardous substances, health hazards and materials contaminated with them (such as contaminated soil or other elements of the natural environment) from the site of the incident, the employer conducting the clean-up shall comply with one of the following:

  1. Meet all the requirements of paragraphs (b) through (o) of this section ; OR
  2. Where the clean-up is done on plant property using plant or workplace employees, such employees shall have completed the training requirements of the following: 29 CFR 1910.38, 1910.134, 1910.1200, and other appropriate safety and health training made necessary by the tasks they are expected to perform such as personal protective equipment and decontamination procedures.

Item 1 above indicates that personnel who perform the cleanup be 40 Hr trained while Item 2 appears to allow a lesser amount of training (possibly less that 24 hrs?). A practical way to determine which type of cleanup occurs after an emergency response (which determines if 24 or 40 hrs of training is needed) is as follows.

  1. If the cleanup can be accomplished on the same day as the emergency response with the same facility people that performed the emergency response, then 24 hrs of training is required.
  2. However, if the incident impacts surrounding environmental receptors (e.g. soils, groundwater, surface water etc.) and the cleanup would likely involve multiple days (or weeks) then the cleanup would fall under the requirements paragraphs (b) through (o) and would require personnel that are 40 hr trained

To summarize:

  1. Personnel involved in emergency response at the HazMat Technician of Specialist Levels require 24 hrs of initial training.
  1. Personnel who work at RCRA regulated treatment, storage or disposal facilities require 24 hrs of initial training.

  1. Personnel involved in clean-ups of hazardous waste sites (under CERCLA or RCRA) including those involved with multi-day (or longer) clean-ups subsequent to an emergency response require 40 hrs of initial training.
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