Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

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

September 8, 1992

Honorable Henry Koellein, Jr.
Department of Licensing and Regulation
Division of Labor and Industry
501 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21202-2272

Dear Mr. Koellein:

This is in further response to your inquiry of June 8 addressed to Ms. Linda Anku, Regional Administrator for region III. Your letter was forwarded to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs. Your correspondence concerned clarification of the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) regulation, 29 CFR 1910.120.

You have requested clarification on two points. First, you asked how 29 CFR 1910.120 covers an employee who will perform work that is not necessarily related to clean-up or control efforts at a hazardous waste site. You also inquired how this would be affected if these employees were performing work during the period of time when a clean-up operation was not yet in progress. You give the example of a utility worker digging up buried pipes between the investigation and remediation phases of a site, during a time when there is no on-site supervisor or a site-specific written safety and health plan.

Workers, such as utility workers, who must perform duties at a hazardous waste site that has not yet been characterized but where contamination is expected, do fall under the scope of 29 CFR 1910.120. These workers must work under the direction of an on-site supervisor and a site-specific safety and health plan, and must be fully trained and protected pursuant to the HAZWOPER standard. When additional information becomes available through site characterization which verifies that there is minimal or no risk of employee exposure to hazardous substances, a lesser degree of PPE and worker training may be acceptable.

When site characterization shows that the area to be serviced by workers is free of potential exposure, or the proposed work assignments would not expose any of the work crew to hazardous substances, the activity can be carried out as a normal maintenance or construction operation.

Your second question addresses training for workers who will perform duties that are not necessarily related to clean-up or control efforts at a hazardous waste site. You ask whether your hypothetical utility contractor is "bound to the number of training hours specified in 1910.120(e)."

The utility contractor is bound to provide at least the minimum number of training hours specified. On a hazardous waste site that has many site specific peculiarities the employer may need to train employees beyond the 40 or 24 hour minimum set by the standard. Employees must be provided training that prepares them for their job functions and responsibilities, as stated in the general requirements in 29 CFR 1910.120(e).

Training required by 29 CFR 1910.120(e) is also addressed in OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.51, dated November 5, 1990 (enclosed). The employer would not compromise worker safety and health by following the de minimis criteria in section G.3 of this directive.

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

Enclosure: OSHA Instruction CPL 2-2.51

April 30,1992

Honorable Henry Koellein, Jr.
Department of Licensing and Regulation
501 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202-2272

Dear Commissioner Koellein:

In response to your letter dated March 26, 1992, relative to compliance issues with the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard, 29 CFR 1910.120, we present the following interpretations.

The sites which you have discussed in your letter all fall within the scope of the 1910.120 standard in that some element of government has designated them to be voluntary or involuntary clean-up actions relative to hazardous materials. Activities which are not necessarily related to hazardous materials abatement, clean-up, or control, but never-the-less may be hazardous work activities in of themselves are not specifically discussed in the text of the 120 standard. They are covered, however, in paragraphs (b), (c), and (d), the site safety and health program, site characterization, and site control.

Namely, the site-specific comprehensive written plan must address all work activities on site. Site characterization must identify and characterize all physical, biological, and chemical agents as well as all safety hazards that the site presents to any workers regardless of work activity. The site control procedures must limit all access to the site only to authorized employees or agents. Therefore, the site-specific plan must address work operations such as utility employees who dig up buried pipes and cables or read meters, turn on or shut off service and the like. The amount of training, ppe, work practices, and medical surveillance needs to be addressed in the plan or the on-site supervisor must address the situation on a case-by-case basis. Failure to do so when the work activity compromises the safety and health of the worker will result in appropriate apparent violations of 1910.120.

In summary, the site-specific written safety and health plan must discuss with particularity how both hazardous waste operations and non-related hazardous waste operations are to be conducted at the site. If the plan fails to discuss the issue adequately and/or the site supervisor fails to amend the plan appropriately, and this results in a compromise of worker protection, then sections of 29 CFR 1910.120 would be violated.


Linda R. Anku
Regional Administrator