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.

December 30, 1992

Mr. James Celenza
Rhode Island Committee on Occupational Safety and Health
741 Westminster Street
Providence, Rhode Island 02903

Dear Mr. Celenza:

This is in response to your request of September 14, concerning your handout on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response HAZWOPER) regulation, 29 CFR 1910.120.

While OSHA in no way provides "approval" for such documents as yours, the handout appears to be a good summary of the standard. The Office of Health Compliance Assistance at OSHA has conducted a cursory review of the document and offers the following comments which are referenced by page and paragraph number.

Page 1, paragraph 1:

Voluntary clean-up operations at sites which have been or would be recognized by a governmental body are also covered by this section of the standard (paragraphs (b) through (o)). You might want to add to the end of the fourth sentence after "has directed that the site be cleaned up," the statement "or where the owner is cleaning up the site voluntarily, and a government agency would recognize the site as a hazardous waste clean-up site."

Page 1, paragraph 4:

All of HAZWOPER is a single regulation. OSHA generally refers to "the provisions of HAZWOPER" or "HAZWOPER's requirements." Also, you make the same statement twice, that hazardous waste site requirements do not apply to TSD facilities, without stating the reverse-- that the requirements for TSD facilities do not apply to hazardous waste clean-up sites.

Although a given type of facility is not required to comply with the other sections of the standard, the employer may find that the other sections offer helpful guidance on pertinent issues. For example, clean-up operations and TSDs may find the emergency response provisions in paragraph (q) to be clearer and more detailed than those in paragraphs (l) and (p)(8), respectively.

Page 2, paragraph 1:

Instead of "how workers are being protected" in the second to last sentence it would be clearer to say "and what standard procedures have been developed to protect workers." Either of the terms "site safety and health plan" or "health and safety plan" are more accurate.

Page 2, paragraph 2:

Consider making the following changes and additions:

b] e.g., standard operating procedures.

c] spill containment program, not "confinement."

g] environmental and personal monitoring, not "medical monitoring."

j] please include reference to confined space entry procedures.

Page 2, paragraph 3:

Lines or chains of communication are also essential.

Page 2, paragraph 5:

In the standard, specific requirements for certain site activities are spelled out in detail, and must be incorporated into the written site safety and health plan.

Page 2, paragraph 6:

A coordinated response effort is essential to successful emergency response, including preestablished lines of authority and communication, preassigned roles, and use of the buddy system.

Page 3, paragraph 1:

Training must be provided for all site employees who will be exposed, or potentially exposed, to hazardous substances. Employees who will not enter contaminated areas of the site do not require HAZWOPER training. The central theme of the training is what the hazards are and how the workers can protect themselves from these hazards. All other training elements follow from this. Another important training topic is the employer's medical surveillance program.

The specified numbers of hours of training are minimums: many employers have found it difficult to adequately address all of the required training topics in the 24 or 40 hours. Also, some of the training elements are site-specific in nature or have a site-specific component, so that the training course must to some degree be tailored to the specific site. Hands-on training, for example in donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE), is also essential.

Page 3, paragraph 2:

The statement "general safety and health training for all employees" may be misleading, as the training must be specific to hazardous waste site work and to the site.

Page 3, paragraph 3:

It would be helpful to conclude this paragraph by paraphrasing paragraph (p)(7) of the standard where it states that "all employees must be trained to perform their assigned job duties and functions in a safe and healthful manner so as not to endanger themselves or other employees."

Page 4, paragraph 1:

An EPA conditionally exempt small quantity generator (a generator who accumulates less than 100 kg in a calendar month) would have the option of evacuating all its employees under an emergency action plan developed in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.38(a). Other TSD employers are generally required by EPA permitting requirements to direct employees to participate in emergency response, and must provide designated employees with HAZWOPER emergency response training.

Page 4, paragraph 2:

It may be misleading to describe the 24 hour training for TSD workers as "general health and safety training." This training must address the hazards of TSD operations and enable employees to perform their assigned job duties safely and without danger to other employees.

Page 4, paragraph 4:

Nearly half (23) of all states have their own OSHA-approved state program.

Page 4, paragraph 5:

All employees in the private sector who are designated to respond to emergency releases of hazardous substance at their work site will require some level of HAZWOPER training. First responders do not "aggressively respond to control or mitigate" releases, yet they require HAZWOPER training. Employers must plan for emergencies and train employees before they direct them to respond to an emergency.

An emergency would be a release which is beyond the ability of the worker to safely control without use of a coordinated response effort (e.g., the buddy system). The following information, taken from a September, 1990 letter from former Director Designate, Patricia K. Clark, Directorate of Compliance Programs addressed to Richard J. Boggs, elaborates on the definition of an emergency release. A hazardous substance release would be considered an emergency if:


it may cause high levels of exposures to toxic substances, the release is life or injury threatening, employees must evacuate the area, it poses immediately dangerous to life and health (IDLH) conditions, it poses a fire and explosion hazard (exceeds or has the potential to exceed 25% of the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL)), it requires immediate attention because of danger, or presents an oxygen deficient condition. Nuisance spills, minor releases, etc., which do not require immediate attention (due to danger to employees) would not be considered emergencies.

Page 5, paragraph 1:

It is incorrect to say that anyone who regularly deals with chemical spills "that they were not initially involved in" is an emergency responder. For example, a janitor who would be expected to mop up a spill of paint thinner in an art studio would not be considered an emergency responder requiring training under 29 CFR 1910.120. (Instead, the janitor would require training under the Hazard Communication Standard, 29 CFR 1910.1200. All employees must receive training that will allow them to perform their expected job duties in a safe and healthful manner.)

Conversely, just because an employee was dealing with a chemical spill that he or she was "initially involved in" would not mean the person was not responding to an emergency. Whether someone is to be considered an emergency responder depends on whether one may potentially encounter an emergency spill or release in the course of one's assigned duties. The determination as to whether the potential exists for a hazardous substance emergency must be based on worst-case scenarios. Please refer to the information on emergency releases provided above in answer to page 4, paragraph 5.

Page 5, paragraph 4:

You may want to change "evaluation of plans" so that it more clearly indicates a critique, conducted after an emergency, of the emergency response plan and actual performance during the emergency response.

Page 5, final paragraph, continues as Page 6, paragraph 1:

Skilled support personnel and specialist employees may play a role in emergency response even though they are not designated and trained as emergency responders. Chemists and doctors would not be considered skilled support personnel. They would be considered specialist employees and must demonstrate competency in their area of specialization annually. Backhoe and crane operators would be considered skilled support personnel. Personnel who are to enter contaminated areas on a regular basis can no longer be considered skilled support personnel or specialist employees, and require HAZWOPER training.

Your fourth point only holds true when the workers who will perform the post-emergency response clean-up are site employees (or contractors who already work at the site full time). If outside contractors are called in to perform the clean-up, these contract employees would need to receive the 24 or 40 hour training for hazardous waste site workers as required in paragraph (e).

Page six, paragraph 3:

The training hours listed for emergency responders are intended as minimums. The employer may find it necessary to go beyond the minimum number of hours to adequately address all of the training competencies required.

Page 6 paragraph 4:

The intent of awareness level training is to enable the employee to distinguish an emergency release of hazardous substance from an incidental release, and to know how to contact the proper authorities in the event of an emergency.

Page 6, paragraph 5:

Replace "up to" with "a minimum of" in line four.

Page 6, paragraph 6:

An important duty of HAZMAT specialists which is worth mention is acting as liaison with government authorities.

Page 7, paragraph 1:

Your first sentence is correct only for HAZMAT technicians. HAZMAT specialists require 24 hours of training equal to the technician level, as well as their additional duties.

We hope this information is helpful.


Ruth McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance