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.

August 12, 1992

Mr. Eric Newman
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Mail stop 3HW-42
841 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Dear Mr. Newman:

This is in response to your facsimile dated June 8, to Joe Cocalis of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, forwarded to MaryAnn Garrahan of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Your question concerns clarification on the applicability of the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard (HAZWOPER), codified as 29 CFR 1910.120, to a clean-up operation. The company will be performing activities on a Superfund site, some of which are clearly covered by HAZWOPER. The company claims that "workers' exposed to health hazards related to hazardous waste is virtually non-existent," for other activities.

A written site safety and health plan is required by HAZWOPER in paragraph (b), and guidance for characterizing and evaluating the hazards on site is given in paragraph (c). The site characterization must show that "the operation does not involve employee exposure or the reasonable possibility for employee exposure," as specified in the scope of 1910.120, to warrant exclusion from HAZWOPER training provisions. Site characterization is an ongoing process.

When there is an indication that exposures have risen, for example when excavation unexpectedly uncovers a section of earth that contains high levels of contamination, the company must reexamine the site's operations to fully comply with HAZWOPER. Employees must be notified of any changes on the site and how the changes affect their working conditions (workers may require personal protective equipment, training, medical surveillance, etc.).

Where there is a likelihood of exposure, but such exposure is below OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) or published exposure limits, and respirators are not necessary, employees must receive 24 hours of training and one day of actual field experience. This requirement may apply to the clean-up operation described in the company's letter, since there is exposure which does not exceed the PEL. Based on the limited information in the letter, it is not possible for us to determine whether their employees would require 24 hours of training in accordance with paragraph (e).

Workers in areas that have been characterized as having no reasonable possibility of exposure, and therefore are not required to have HAZWOPER training, may be covered by other OSHA standards, such as the Hazard Communication standard.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 523-8036.


Patricia Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs