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.

July 17, 1991

Mr. Lawrence M. Sontoski
Radian Corporation
5103 W. Beloit Road
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53214

Dear Mr. Sontoski:

This is an updated response to your request to Mr. Gerald Cunningham for interpretations of OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, 29 CFR 1910.120. You raised several issues and questions which will be answered in the same order as your presentation.

First, it is important to clarify some main issues which will aid in your understanding of this standard. As you probably know, the standard covers three main activities outlined in the scope paragraph: cleanup site activity; treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) activities; and emergency response without regard to location. You have directed your questions to petroleum product spills or releases subject to cleanup under state codes. In order to properly answer your questions we will refer to various parts of the 1910.120 standard.

In addition, you make reference to cleanup activities under state codes. We can only address Federal OSHA standards and not any state regulations. However, the 1910.120 standard in the scope paragraph does reference cleanup operations required by a governmental body which includes Federal, state, local or other.

You also state that petroleum products are not regulated under RCRA regulations but are covered by the state. There are specific RCRA regulations which cover petroleum products in underground storage tanks. These activities may be covered under 1910.120 if they include activity referenced in 1910.120(a)(1) (i-iii) (See Attachment A). Petroleum products are covered under 1910.120 under the definition of "hazardous substance" which references hazardous materials under United States Department of Transportation's Regulation 49 CFR 172.101 where petroleum products are listed.

1. What in OSHA's eyes defines a spill/release?

There are no specific answers to this question because there are too many variables. Individual employers must assess the hazardous substances in their facility based upon anticipated exposures during an emergency. The criteria for coverage includes toxicity, inhalation, skin absorption, ingestion, flammability, explosiveness and its reactivity with other substances and the surrounding environment. An emergency could exist as a result of a spill or release of a small amount of a highly toxic or explosive substance or a large amount of a less toxic substance (See Attachment B).

2. What amount of hazardous chemical/petroleum product would be the minimum classed as a spill?

There is no specific answer for this question. Please refer to the answer to question 1.

3. What level of training under 1910.120 or other applicable sections is required for:

Your questions refer to several parts of the OSHA 1910.120 standard. There are separate training requirements in each of the three sections previously discussed in this letter.

If there is a hazardous waste site cleanup activity going on, there are 40-hour training or 24-hour training requirements. The 40-hour training is for workers engaged in hazardous substance removal or other activities which expose or potentially expose workers to health hazards. The 24-hour training is for workers who are unlikely to be exposed to concentrations above permissible exposure limits and/or published exposure limits. Both categories of employee are required to have 8 hours of refresher training a year. The employer must decide, based upon work activity, how many hours of training are required.

Employees at RCRA permitted Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities are required to have 24 hours of initial training and 8 hours of refresher training per year as described in paragraph (p) of HAZWOPER.

Employees who are expected to respond in the event of an emergency resulting from the release of a hazardous substance must meet the requirements outlined in paragraph (q). This paragraph describes five levels of training requirements for five distinct levels of emergency response activity and responsibility.

Employees involved in post-emergency response work, i.e. cleaning up a spill which no longer requires an emergency response, are discussed in paragraph (q)(11), which refers back to paragraphs (b) through (o). These paragraphs require the training hours discussed above pertaining to cleanup activities. If the cleanup is done on plant property using plant employees, then the required training must include 29 CFR 1910.38(a) - Emergency Action Plan; 1910.134 - Respiratory Protection; 1910.1200 - Hazard Communication Standard and other safety and health training as required by the tasks to be performed. Attachment C, the OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.51, provides further information on training requirements for employees involved in post- emergency response operations.

It is unclear from your letter to which category of employee you are referring. You speak of "spill/release sites" which could refer to hazardous waste site remediation or emergency response to the release of a hazardous substance. Therefore we have answered the questions that follow in two parts. The first response assumes that the described scenario is an emergency response to the spill or release of a hazardous substance. The second part of the answer assumes that you are referring to the characterization and remediation of an uncontrolled hazardous waste site.

3a. Individual identifying the spill:

If we are discussing an individual involved in an emergency response, they would be required to have had at least first responder awareness level training. This level of training as described in 1910.120(q)(6)(i) has no minimum number of training hours required.

If this scenario is referring to identification of an uncontrolled hazardous waste site then the procedures to be followed are covered in 1910.120(c) and the training requirements of 40 hours and three days of supervised field experience are discussed in 1910.120(e).

3b. Individual characterizing the spill site:

If this is an emergency response at a spill site the level of training depends on the job duties and responsibilities of the individual during the emergency. For emergencies, personnel roles and training are to be part of the emergency response plan. If the individual characterizing the spill site is expected to enter the danger area then they would be required to have hazardous material technician level training as described in 1910.120(q)(6)(iii).

If the individual described above is characterizing an uncontrolled hazardous waste site, than they would be required to have 40 hours of training and three days of supervised field experience as described in 1910.120(e).

3c. Individual directing cleanup activity:

During an emergency response this could be the Incident Commander (1910.120(q)(6)(v)) position requiring 24 hours of Level 2 training (First Responder Operations) and demonstration of additional competencies.

On a cleanup site the required training for "management and supervisors" is 40 hours initial, 24 hours supervised field experience, and at least 8 hours specialized training.

3d. Individual sampling the spill site:

For emergency response activity, please refer to answer to 3b.

For the individual working at a hazardous waste site, the level of training required depends on exposure or potential exposure to hazardous substances. Either 40 hours, with three days of supervised field experience or 24 hours with one day of supervised field experience would be required.

3e. Individual non-intrusively identifying underground/overhead utility or private industry transmission lines at the spill site;

See answer to 3d.

3f. Surveyors on site to determine property lines, boring locations and monitoring well locations;

See answer to 3d.

3g. Individual operating soil boring equipment to identify extent of spill;

See answer to 3d.

3h. Individual operating an excavation piece of equipment removing contaminated soils or water;

During an emergency response, these workers may be classified as "Skilled Support Personnel" as described in (1910.120(q)(4).

Workers at hazardous waste site clean-up operations would require 40 hours of training, with three days of supervised field experience.

3i. Truck driver hauling "special waste" to a landfill;

The OSHA and EPA do not use the term "special waste". If this term meets the definition in 1910.120 of a hazardous substance then the training requirements would depend on the nature of the work of the truck driver at both ends of the trip. If the truck driver does not leave the vehicle and is not exposed to the hazardous substance at either end of the trip, this work would not be covered under this standard. If the driver has a potential for exposure to the hazardous substances during the loading or unloading, the training requirements would be the same as those for other workers with a similar exposure to hazards, i.e., 40 hours with 24 hours of supervised field experience or 24 hours with 1 day of supervised field experience.

During an emergency response, this worker may need training under 1910.120(q) depending on whether the driver becomes actively involved in the response.

If the "special waste" is not considered hazardous waste, Hazard Communication Standard training may also be required if the truck drivers come under the jurisdiction of Federal OSHA.

3j. Landfill equipment operators receiving the "special waste" at an approved landfill;

If this landfill comes under the scope of the standard as a TSDF, the workers would be required to receive the 24 hours of training as described in 1910.120(p)(7).

3k. State, local and federal inspectors visiting the spill site;

If this is an emergency response, the inspectors could be considered "Specialist Employees" requiring annual training in their specialization.

If this is a cleanup site, these workers would be required to have 40 hours or 24 hours of training again depending upon their level of exposure to the hazards.

3l. The property owner;

Again if this is an emergency response, it would depend upon the function being performed by this person, i.e., 1910.120(q)(4),(5) or (6).

If this is a cleanup site the training would be 40 hours or 24 hours depending upon the level of this person's activity and exposure to hazards.

All of the workers addressed in question 3 are required to receive annual refresher training in accordance with their job duties as described in 1910.120.

4. Would a release from an underground storage tank that has occurred over an extended time then detected when tank removal is done be classed as a hazardous waste site, a spill site, or a non-hazardous release?

The answer to this question depends upon the designation of this site as a clean-up operation involving hazardous substances by a governmental bodies. In general if the site is part of a corrective action, it would be considered a cleanup activity and compliance must be met with paragraphs (b)-(o). Therefore workers engaged in remediation of releases of hazardous substances from leaking underground storage tanks would be expected to meet the training requirements described in 1910.120(e).

4a. Would this classification be true for: waste motor oil, diesel fuel, gasoline and xylene?

Yes, the same answer would apply. We must refer back to the definition of "hazardous substance" in the standard and as stated earlier in the introductory paragraphs of this letter. All of these substances would meet this definition and therefore be covered.

4b. Which of these products would OSHA feel represents an exposure health hazard?

All of these products could present a health hazard to workers depending upon their exposure to the substance. This would include inhalation, ingestion and skin hazards and all other accompanying safety hazards.

If you find you need further clarification of this letter please contact MaryAnn Garrahan of my staff at (202) 523-8036.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs