OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

January 28, 1991

The Honorable Frank McCloskey
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman McCloskey:

Thank you for your inquiry of December 31, 1990, on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Michael McLain of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Mr. McLain expressed concerns about improper decontamination of equipment used on hazardous waste sites.

Because of the safety and health hazards related to hazardous waste operations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final standard (29 CFR 1910.120) specifically developed to protect workers in this environment and to help them handle hazardous wastes safely and effectively. This standard requires in paragraph (k) a decontamination plan to be developed and implemented before any employees or equipment may enter areas on hazardous waste sites where potential exists for exposure to hazardous substances. All equipment must be decontaminated or disposed of before leaving a contaminated area. These provisions are required so that contaminated equipment does not leave the "hot zone" and thereby expose other employees or persons to hazardous substances.

The decontamination program must be effective and it must be monitored by the site safety and health supervisor to maintain its effectiveness. Employees performing or participating in the decontamination process must be adequately trained. Violations of these requirements may lead to citation by OSHA.

These regulatory requirements were based on the comments and testimony received in a full rulemaking proceeding. Public hearings were held and representatives from unions, industry, academia and regulatory agencies presented expert testimony on these and other relevant issues.

I have directed that a copy of your constituent's letter be forwarded to OSHA's [Directorate of Standards and Guidance] for consideration during the hearings in February 1991 on 1910.121.

[Corrected 1/20/2005. On August 15, 2002 the proposed 1910.121 "Accreditation of Training Programs for Hazardous Waste Operations" proposed rule was withdrawn from the Unified Regulatory Agenda (see Federal Register 67:74749-74785 dated December 9, 2002).]

We hope this information will be of help to you and your constituent. If we can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to [contact the Office of Health Enforcement at 202 693-2190].


Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary