- Standard Number:
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.
May 11, 1992
Mr. Joseph D. Green
Occupational Health and Hygiene
Corporation of America
2777 Finley Road
Downers Grove, Illinois 60515
Dear Mr. Green:
This is in response to your inquiry of January 21, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (HAZWOPER), 29 CFR 1910.120. We apologize for the delay in responding to your letter.
We will answer your questions in the order that you asked them:
1. Are personnel who perform post-closure O&M [Operation & Maintenance] activities ... considered general site workers engaged in hazardous substance removal or other activities which expose or potentially expose workers to hazardous substances and health hazards?
Employee activity on a hazardous waste site which has gone through closure may or may not pose a threat to employee safety or health, depending on the site's characteristics. In our discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a site that has submitted a "post-closure plan" must include information on the maintenance and monitoring of waste containment systems in its plan. EPA feels that a site that has gone through "closure" is not necessarily "clean," and usually requires continuing site activity. Employees who are performing activities on a hazardous waste site with a "post-closure plan" still need to be protected and trained in the hazards on site.
OSHA requires the employer to create a site safety and health plan under HAZWOPER. If the site has been declared "clean" by EPA and activity has ceased on the site, or if the employer can demonstrate that activity on site does not pose a safety and health threat to workers, HAZWOPER training for employees is not required.
The scope of the HAZWOPER standard begins by stating "this section covers the following operations, unless the employer can demonstrate that the operation does not involve employee exposure or the reasonable possibility for employee exposure to safety or health hazards:..." Only employees who are trained in accordance with paragraph (e) may enter areas of the hazardous waste site where they may be exposed (that may expose them) to hazardous substances. Employees shall not be permitted to participate in, or supervise, field activities until they have been trained to a level required by their job function.
If the owner or operator of a site decides to change planned activity, or if unexpected events change the characteristics of the site, the "post-closure plan" must be amended and submitted to EPA's Regional Administrator, and the site safety and health plan required by OSHA's HAZWOPER must be amended. For example, if the site was analyzed and considered free from threats of exposure, and an unexpected event occurred, such as a leak in the liner, the post-closure plan and the site safety and health plan must be reevaluated.
1a. As an example, are personnel who are occasionally on site to perform inspections and contaminant monitoring considered general site workers engaged in hazardous substance removal?
Or, are employees engaged in inspection and sampling activities considered workers on site only occasionally for a specific limited task and who are unlikely to be exposed over the permissible exposure limit?
Personnel who are on site occasionally and engaged in inspection and sampling activities that are unlikely to expose them over the permissible exposure limit (PEL) and published exposure limits may be considered "workers on site only occasionally for a specific limited task". These workers would need 24 hours of training and one day of actual field experience, in accordance with paragraph (e). Employees who have minimal (low risk) exposure or low probability of exposure to hazardous substances are covered by other OSHA standards, such as the Hazard Communication standard.
1b. Likewise, are personnel who are occasionally on site to perform post-closure maintenance activities, such as mowing, fence repair, and pump replacement considered general site workers engaged in hazardous substance removal?
Or, are employees engaged in post-closure maintenance activities considered workers on site only occasionally for a specific limited task and who are unlikely to be exposed over the permissible exposure limit?
Please see our response to the beginning of question 1.
2. How do initial training requirements apply to post-closure O&M activities at a recently closed Superfund landfill site where exposure conditions are not known?
If site conditions are not known, monitoring must be completed before employees are permitted to perform their post-closure activities. Employers must address frequency and types of air monitoring, personnel monitoring and environmental sampling techniques as part of their site specific safety and health plan, required in paragraph (b). The site specific safety and health plan designates areas on the site that are "clean," "contain exposures below the PEL" or "contain potential for exposures at or above the PEL." Only employees who are trained in accordance with paragraph (e) may enter contaminated areas.
2a. As an example, can an employer provide post-closure O&M personnel with 24 hours of initial training and an additional day of field training until such time that post- closure exposure conditions are known?
Or, can an employer, based on an assessment of the reasonable possibility for employee exposure to safety or health hazards, establish that less than 24 hours of initial training is prudent and proceed on this basis?
Potential worker exposures to safety or health hazards who are on site quarterly at a closed Superfund landfill sites should be negligible, as the site has just been cleaned, capped, and prepared for post-closure O&M activities.
Where an employee's duty "does not involve employee exposure, or the reasonable possibility for employee exposure, to safety or health hazards," he or she does not need to be trained in accordance with HAZWOPER's paragraph (e). Where there is the likelihood of exposure but such exposure is unlikely to be over permissible exposure limits or published exposure limits, employees must receive 24 hours of training and one day of actual field experience.
3. Can employees involved in inspection and sampling activities perform these activities in the field prior to initial training?
As an example, prior to initial training, can an employee enter a recently closed Superfund landfill site to establish exposure conditions by performing air and water sampling?
Or, would this employee be required to receive initial training prior to entering the site?
Again, only employees who are trained in accordance with paragraph (e) may enter contaminated areas. Employees who are performing field sampling must be trained before they begin monitoring.
We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact us at (202) 523-8036.
Dorothy L. Strunk
Acting Assistant Secretary