Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

October 2, 1991

The Honorable Sam Gejdenson
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Gejdenson:

This is in further response to your letter of August 20, on behalf of your constituent's concerns about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (29 CFR 1910.120).

The constituent who wrote to you was alarmed at the cost of training required under 29 CFR 1910.120 paragraph (q), Emergency Response to Hazardous Substance Releases. Ms. Gail Buszwicz from your office forwarded a letter from a training organization that caused the constituent alarm. The hazardous materials training organization claimed that:

"Under OSHA regulations 1910.120, an employer who requires employees to respond to a release of hazardous materials must provide those employees with 24 hours of emergency response training [costing $3,500 plus $50 per participant]. Your only alternative to this requirement is to disband the emergency response team, evacuate when a release occurs and call in an outside clean-up contractor. You are the only person who can determine the likelihood of having a release and whether you can afford the extended down-time that may be caused by waiting for the arrival of an outside contractor."

The purpose of 1910.120 is to improve the ability of employees and employers to respond to emergencies caused by releases of hazardous substances. Please convey to your constituent that there are several training options to meet 1910.120 that are not as costly for small companies. In addition to the following suggestions the constituent may want to contact Connecticut's OSHA consultation service (please see enclosed material).

First, let me explain briefly 1910.120(q) training requirements. Employers whose employees respond to releases of, or substantial threat of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard must comply with paragraph (q).

However, employers who will evacuate their employees from the danger area when an emergency occurs are exempt from the requirements of (q) if they provide an emergency action plan in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.38(a).

Employers who expect their own employees to respond to emergencies may select training courses based on the company's training needs. Each level of employee training requires demonstration of competency in certain areas, and becomes progressively more technical in its response to a release of a hazardous substance. The first level does not have a required number of training hours, however the others require at least 8 to 24 hours of training in addition to competency in certain areas. We encourage the constituent to read through 1910.120(q) carefully with their company in mind to develop an emergency response plan that suits the company's needs and the law's requirements.

An in-house training program, among other options, may be developed. Please refer your constituent to paragraph (q)(7), which defines credential requirements for trainers. Training courses are also available from a number of sources, ranging in prices (please see the enclosed material).

Equivalent training is acceptable under 1910.120(q)(i)-(v), which states that employees must "have sufficient training or have had sufficient experience to objectively demonstrate competency in the following areas...." However, the employer must ensure that the employee accomplishes all training objectives. Employees with an engineering degree, for example, may be familiar with engineering controls but may not be aware of safety and health issues.

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(q). There must be a written document which clearly identifies the employee, the person certifying the employee, and the training and/or past experience which meets the 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 is working on a new regulation (29 CFR 1910.121) concerning certification of 1910.120 training programs, which will be promulgated in the future. Currently, this new standard is in rulemaking. Your constituent may want to monitor the progress of this new standard and anticipate needed changes in their training and certification programs to insure continued compliance.

We hope this information will be of help to you and your constituent. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact us at (202) 523-8036.


Gerard F. Scannell
Assistant Secretary