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 20, 1991

Mr. Robert T. Gabris
Industrial Hygienist
Riedel Environmental Services, Inc.
Foot of North Portsmouth Ave.
Portland, Oregon 97203

Dear Mr. Gabris:

This is in response to your inquiry of May 17, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (29 CFR 1910.120). Please accept my apology for the delay in this reply.

Your specific question read as follows: "I am requesting clarification of training requirements for the following job functions:



  1. Persons who will aggressively seek to stop the spill at its source(s).
  2. Persons who will provide skimming and boom placement services.
  3. Persons who will provide shoreline clean-up (absorbing oil from rocks, etc).
  4. Members of dedicated hazmat teams.
  5. Skilled support personnel.
  6. Post-emergency response operations: a. Persons who were part of initial response. b. Persons brought in after the emergency phase of the response is completed."


Please keep in mind that a fundamental premise of 1910.120 is that employees must be properly trained and properly equipped to recognize hazards and to understand appropriate work practices to minimize those hazards. The level of training provided must be consistent with the worker's job function and responsibilities.

The specific training requirements are covered in several different paragraphs of 1910.120:



  • Paragraph (e) covers training for workers at hazardous waste remediation sites who are exposed to hazardous substances, or health and safety hazards;
  • Paragraph (p) covers workers at hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs);
  • Paragraph (q) covers employees who are engaged in emergency response operations involving the release of hazardous substance without regard to the location of the hazard.

In the first job scenario specified in your letter, the person who "aggressively seeks to stop the spill at its source(s)" must receive training in paragraph (q) if it is an emergency response. An emergency responder, responding in this manner must be trained to the "hazardous materials technician" level because the emergency responder's function is to "approach the point of release in order to plug, patch or otherwise stop the release of a hazardous substance."

The second scenario, describing a worker who is providing "skimming and boom placement services," also falls under paragraph (q). This activity would require training to the "first responder operations" level, because the emergency responder's "function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures."

The job function described in your third scenario is not necessarily an emergency response. Please refer to the answer for job function #6.

The fourth job description described "members of dedicated hazmat teams," which are covered in paragraph (q). Designated HAZMAT members must be trained from the "first responder operations" level through the "on scene incident commander" level.

In response to job scenario #5, skilled support personnel, or contractors, who routinely work at a plant facility can meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(11)(ii) versus the more lengthy requirements of (q)(11)(i). Contract personnel assigned full time at a plant facility are considered "plant or work place employees" for the purposes of (q)(11)(ii) when such workers are conducting clean-up in areas they routinely work. Contractors brought in specifically for clean-up are covered by (q)(11)(i). The sixth job scenario refers to post emergency response operations. Upon completion of the emergency response, if it is determined that it is necessary to remove hazardous substances, health hazards, and materials contaminated with them (such as contaminated soil) from the site of the incident, the employer conducting the clean-up should train workers to specifications laid out in 1910.120(e), [29 CFR 1910.38], 1910.134 and 1910.1200.

You also requested "information on how to provide documentation of training both off-site and on-the-job." The employer is responsible for making sure that employees receive training, and must prove their employees' capability by keeping a copy of the written certification, given "by their instructor or the head instructor and trained supervisor" documenting successful completion of the necessary training, on file. The employee must be provided copies of the training certificate.

Employers who can show by documentation or certification that an employee's work experience and/or training has resulted in training equivalent to 1910.120(e)(1)-(e)(4), do not need to provide initial training. However, certified employees new to a site should receive appropriate site specific training. Equivalent training includes any academic training or experience received from actual hazardous waste site work.

Your last question reads "please provide me with medical surveillance requirements for personnel in each of the six functions." Annual medical surveillance requirements for employers, discussed in paragraph (f), cover "all employees who are or may be exposed to hazardous substances or health hazards at or above permissible exposure limits," "all employees who wear a respirator for 30 days or more a year," "members of HAZMAT teams" and "hazardous material specialists."

Paragraph (f)(3) requires that all employees who are injured, become ill, or develop signs or symptoms due to possible overexposure involving hazardous substances or health hazards from an emergency response or hazardous waste operation or "exposed during an emergency incident to hazardous substances at concentrations above the permissible exposure limits or the published exposure levels without the necessary personal protective equipment" be provided medical examinations and consultations as soon as possible following the emergency incident. Additional examinations or consultations must be provided if the examining physician feels they are needed.

I 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 1/17/03]