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.

December 10, 1991

Ms. Marian Fournier
Condor Geotechnical Services, Inc.
10790 West 50th Avenue
Suite 200
Wheat Ridge, Colorado 80033-6716

Dear Ms. Fournier,

This is in response to your inquiry of September 16, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (29 CFR 1910.120).

Your questions concern clarification of how, or if, Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) are covered by 29 CFR 1910.120. We will answer your questions in the order that you asked them. Since questions 2 and 3 refer back to question 1 we will answer 1, 2, and 3 collectively to prevent repetition.

Question 1. What training and how much is required for workers at underground storage tank sites (gas stations) [who] are working to replace piping or tanks only because it is their company's policy to do so periodically, and there is NO evidence of any inventory loss or spill and NO governmental agency has asked for this routine replacement?

Question 2. What training and how much training is required for the above situation with the addition that when the piping or tanks are unearthed, it is discovered that they had been leaking?

Question 3. What training and how much training is required for situation 1 but with the additional qualification that a governmental agency (for example, a local board of health) has required this routine activity, but there still is no evidence for a known problem with leaking?

The following is taken from a memorandum to Michael Connors, Regional Administrator, from Patricia Clark, Director of [Directorate of Enforcement Programs], dated November 31, 1990:

Subtitle I of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulates petroleum products and hazardous substances (as defined under Superfund) stored in USTs. Under this program EPA has established regulations laying out performance standards for new tanks as well as standards covering leak detection, leak prevention, and corrective action for both new and existing USTs.

Activity under subtitle I of RCRA could fall under the following scope sections of 29 CFR 1910.120:

1. Clean-up operations . . . .1910.120(a)(1)(i) and (a)(1)(iii)
2. Corrective actions. . . . . . . . . . . .1910.120(a)(1)(ii)
3. Emergency response operations . . . . . ..1910.120(a)(1)(v)

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the State issues an order for corrective action under RCRA that requires an RCRA facility to take some action when there has been a release of a hazardous substance into the environment. Corrective action can be required beyond the facility boundary and can be required regardless of when the hazardous substance was placed at the facility. OSHA interprets the corrective actions activity to include excavation work to remove the tank, tank cleaning, and tank removal if these activities are necessary to complete the order.

Leak detection, leak prevention, tank cleaning, and closure activity are covered by 1910.120 if any of the following apply:

1. A government body is requiring the tank to be removed because of the potential threat to the environment or the public; or

2. The activities are necessary to complete a corrective action;

3. A governmental body has recognized the site to be an uncontrolled hazardous waste;

4. There is a need for emergency response procedures.

Note: It is not a requirement that a release must have occurred in order to meet the above triggering elements.

Workers who replace piping or tanks where the scope of 1910.120 does not apply must be trained in accordance with other OSHA standards, such as the Hazard Communications standard (29 CFR 1910.1200), Storage and Handling of Liquified Petroleum Gases (1910.110 paragraph (h)), and specific standards for personal protective equipment. The amount of training depends on a number of factors such as duties and functions of the employee, site conditions, etc.

Therefore, in question 1, the condition that you will have to consider is #4 listed above: will there be a need for an emergency response procedure?

The fact that a leak was discovered in the scenario in question 2 may require either an emergency response, or corrective action, depending on the situation. Your employees should be trained to handle the situations by either responding to the emergency with training required in 1910.120(e)(7) or 1910.120(q), or to complete the corrective action with training required in 1910.120(e).

In question 3 the additional condition to be considered is whether the government agency is requiring the tank to be removed because of the potential threat to the environment or the public.

Question 4. What training and how much training is required for the excavation, removal of contaminated soil, due to a leaking tank?

Workers in this case clearly fall under the scope of 1910.120, and need to be trained in accordance with 1910.120(e).

After a Site Characterization and Analysis required under paragraph (c) the hazards should be known, and workers trained under paragraph (e) may excavate and remove contaminated soil. If the leak becomes an emergency, by becoming uncontrollable to the workers trained in accordance with paragraph (e), then the Emergency Response Plan required in 1910.120(l)(1) should be enacted. Employees who are asked to respond to emergency situations must be trained in the procedures they are expected to perform in accordance with paragraph (e)(7), (p)(8)(iii) or (q)(6).

Question 5. What training and how much training is required for excavation, removal of UST's and contaminated soils on sites which are not gasoline stations, but rather are, for example, chemical companies? the tanks to be removed contain a variety of solvents, etc. Is medical surveillance required?

Training for workers who remove USTs that store chemicals is similar to USTs that store gasoline. The handling of chemical solvents is likely to put workers in more dangerous situations than gasoline, therefore training should be more extensive. Employees who are not performing work that falls under the four activities in question 1, and therefore do not fall under the scope of 1910.120, will need to be trained in other OSHA standards for the use of personal protective equipment, and the handling of hazardous materials.

Employers who are covered in the scope and application under paragraphs (a)(1)(i) - (a)(1)(iv) must give their workers medical surveillance as outlined in 1910.120(f). Employers covered by paragraph (a)(1)(v) in the scope and application must provide medical surveillance as outlined in 1910.120(q)(9). For the specific medical surveillance requirements please refer to the text of the standard.

Question 6. What training and how much training is required for a company which may have an occasional spill of a hazardous chemical, and the people who will respond to that spill are company employees but may be from a different facility than that which has the spill? In other words, the company would have its own response personnel, but they would not be responding to spills other than ones at their facilities. Is medical surveillance required?

If the personnel mentioned above are responding to a release of a hazardous substance outside of their own facility that requires an emergency response they must be trained as emergency responders in compliance with paragraph (q) of 1910.120. Those employees who are required to notify authorities of a release and take no further action would only be required to have "first responder awareness level" training. Responders who take an aggressive role to stop the release of hazardous substance must be trained at least to the "hazardous materials technician" level. Ultimate responsibility for directing the emergency response is handled by the "On-Scene Incident Commander."

Employees who work at a hazardous waste clean up site or RCRA corrective action, and are trained under paragraph (e)(7), may respond to emergencies that occur in their facility. Employees who work at treatment storage and disposal facilities and are trained under paragraph (p)(8)(iii) may respond to emergencies that occur in their facility.

Please see the answer to question 5 regarding medical surveillance.

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 Clark, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 1/17/03]