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.

August 19, 1991

Mr. LeRoy S. Harris
Director, Damage Assessment Projects
MR-Ferguson Company
MR-Ferguson Plaza
1500 West 3rd Street
Cleveland, OH 44113-1406

Dear Mr. Harris,

This is in response to your inquiry of June 17, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (29 CFR 1910.120).

Your specific question relates to training and certification for employees who are "graduate chemical engineers and mechanical engineers having P.E. licenses and have design/build chemical or petrochemical plant experience." Specifically, you want to know if these employees can be considered "equivalently trained."

Under 1910.120(e)(9), "academic training or the training that existing employees might have already received from actual hazardous waste site work experience" is acceptable as equivalent training. However, the employer must ensure that the employee attends a course, or combination of courses, or previous work experience, that meet all of the training objectives as listed below and in 1910.120(e)(2). Employees with academic training may be familiar with engineering controls, but may not be aware of safety and health issues.

Employees working on site who are exposed to hazardous substances or health and safety hazards are to be trained to meet objectives under Section 1910.120(e)(2):

i. Names of personnel and alternates responsible for site safety and health;

ii. Safety, health and other hazards present on the site;

iii. Use of personal protective equipment;

iv. Work practices by which the employee can minimize risks from hazards;

v. Safe use of engineering controls and equipment on the site;

vi. Medical surveillance requirements, including recognition of symptoms and signs which might indicate over-exposure to hazards; and

vii. The contents of paragraphs 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(G) through 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(J) of the safety and health plan set forth in paragraph 1910.120(b)(4)(ii).
1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(G) covers decontamination procedures; 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(H) covers the site's emergency response plan, including the necessary PPE and other equipment; 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(I) covers confined space entry procedures; and 1910.120(b)(4)(ii)(J) covers the site's spill containment program.

Additionally, employees who fall under 1910.120(e) must receive 8 hours of refresher training annually, regardless of their previous experience or education.

The employer must retain a written document which clearly identifies the employee, the person certifying the employee as equivalently trained, the certifier's qualifications, and the training and/or past experience which meets the training requirements. One possibility would be to include this information in the employee's personnel file. The preferred method is to include this information on a separate certificate for each employee.

OSHA does not certify individuals, it is the employer who must show by documentation or certification that an employee's work experience and/or training meets the requirements of 1910.120. OSHA is working on a new regulation concerning certification of HAZWOPER training programs (1910.121), which will be promulgated in the future. Currently, this new rule is in rule making. Your organization may want to monitor the progress of this new standard and anticipate needed changes in your training and certification programs to insure continued compliance by your training division.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact [the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].


Patricia K. Clark, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[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).]