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.

February 13, 1992

Mr. Richard S. Sentle
Safety and Training Coordinator
Associated Chemical and
Environmental Services, Inc.
3135 Front Street
Toledo, Ohio 43605

Dear Mr. Sentle:

This is in response to your inquiry of December 3, 1991 forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) [Directorate of Enforcement Programs] by Ms. Linda Anku, Regional Administrator of Region III. Your question concerns OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (HAZWOPER), 29 CFR 1910.120.

Initially you talked with Dr. John Barry of Federal OSHA's Region III Office, regarding training for employees on a site where there is a low magnitude of risk of exposure to hazardous substances. Dr. Barry suggested that less than 24 hours would be necessary because of the low magnitude of risk and because the site is well characterized and will continue to be monitored by qualified people. This office agrees with Dr. Barry's opinion.

The HAZWOPER standard begins by stating that: "This section (29 CFR 1910.120) covers the following operations, unless the employer can demonstrate that the operation does not involve employee exposure or the reasonable possibility of employee exposure to safety or health hazards." This exception may be made if an area at the site is monitored and characterized in accordance with paragraph (c) of HAZWOPER, demonstrating that a work area is sufficiently decontaminated and poses no health threat.

If the results of the ongoing site monitoring change, then the boundaries of various zones must be modified accordingly. This boundary change must be reflected in the site Safety and Health Plan, made available to employees, which will assign only adequately trained employees to work in designated zones. When the ongoing monitoring indicates that any health hazards exist the employees would need to be trained to the 24 hours or 40 hours, as specified by 1910.120(e).

Employees who work on site in areas designated as safe must be trained in other appropriate OSHA standards and must be made aware of the facility's emergency response plan. Even though a facility's activities may fall outside of the HAZWOPER standard's scope and application, the employer is still obligated to protect employees working within the facility by complying with the appropriate general industry standards. Moreover, it should be noted that the general duty clause, section 5(a)(1) of the Occupation Safety and Health Act of 1970, applies to all employers, requiring each employer to provide employees with a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please contact [the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2910].


Patricia Clark, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 1/17/03]