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.

March 10, 1992

Mr. J. Thornborough
Assistant Training Officer
Oil Spill Service Center
Lower William Street
Southampton S01 1QE ENGLAND

Dear Mr. Thornborough:

This is in response to your inquiry of January 15, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) final rule (29 CFR 1910.120).

We appreciate your effort to comply with OSHA regulations in advance of your activity in the United States. Your specific question relates to the "possibility of pre-approval for [your] response team".

First, as you are probably aware, your employees would be protected by OSHA's regulations, and as an employer you would be expected to comply. Section (4)(a) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 applies:

"with respect to employment performed in a workplace in a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, Wake Island, Outer Continental Shelf Lands defined in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, Johnston Island, and the Canal Zone"

Please refer to the enclosed Memorandum of Understanding between the US Coast Guard and OSHA, which further explains OSHA's jurisdiction in areas around the "territorial seas."

In answer to your primary question, OSHA does not "approve" employer programs, although professional staff may be able to provide consultation to the employer through correspondence and phone conversation. You may pose compliance questions to this off ice, the appropriate OSHA area office (list enclosed) or, in states operating their own OSHA approved safety and health programs, to the appropriate state official (list enclosed).

Consultative visits are also provided to small industry and more hazardous operations in the United States; these visits will probably offer the assistance, or "approval", that you seek, but does not ensure full compliance with OSHA's regulations. Further explanation of OSHA's Consultative Services is provided in the enclosed booklet. You may request a consultative visit once you are in the United States.

Since you are concerned specifically with the HAZWOPER standard, the following is a brief explanation of its requirements. Organizations such as yours must train emergency responders to respond in a safe and healthful manner. The standard describes five different levels of emergency response training with different sets of required competencies for each.

There is a minimum number of training hours required for each level, save the first which requires competencies only. The hazardous material technician level requires 24 hours of initial training and refresher training or demonstration of competencies annually. It is this level of training to which you would, most likely, want to train the bulk of your response team.

The employer is responsible for certifying the employee as adequately trained (and is ultimately responsible if the employee is found to be inadequately trained). We encourage you to review the previous training and experience of each of your employees against the competencies presented in 1910.120(q)(6) to find areas where further training may be required. You may then train the employees in the competencies they lack and certify them at a specific level of emergency response capability.

Your organization should thoroughly review other requirements in the enclosed 29 CFR 1910.120(q) and the OSHA compliance directive on post emergency response clean ups. You may have already met many of the requirements; there is no need for a duplication of effort. OSHA will accept documents written to be in compliance with another jurisdiction's regulations as long as all of the requirements of HAZWOPER are met.

You may also be aware of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP), 40 CFR Part 300. The oil spills to which you may be called to respond to will probably fall under the EPA's purview, as well as OSHA's. Among other things, the NCP outlines safety and health responsibilities during catastrophic events.

Again, thank you for your concern. If you have any further questions about the safety and health Standards in the U.S please feel free to contact any of the OSHA offices.


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs