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.


June 22, 1993

Mr. Martin R. Rose
Safety/IH Supervisor
Monsanto Chemical Company
Bridgeport, New Jersey 08014

Dear Mr Rose:

Thank you for your letter of April 15, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) regulation, 29 CFR 1910.120. Your question requests clarification on the acceptability of your off-shift incident and emergency response capabilities, particularly regarding your training program for First Responder Operations Level responders who perform defensive action outside of their own process area. OSHA is not in agreement with the approach you have described.

In your letter you state that your workers are trained to the First Responder Operations Level to perform defensive action in responding to emergencies within their own process area unit. Your facility does not have a HAZMAT team, and an outside HAZMAT team would be called in to handle emergency response beyond the Operations Level. During off-shifts, assistance may be requested from workers from another process area "in the event of a hazardous material emergency" because there are a limited number of workers on-site. These workers have received training in accordance with the requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) regarding the hazardous materials present in the other process areas.

Your letter also states that the entire plant should be considered the "normal work area." This appears to assume that workers responding within their normal work area is a crucial element in determining whether they are covered by HAZWOPER; this is not the case. Further, as your letter describes your operations, your workers are clearly being asked to respond outside of their "normal work area."

In terms of defining an emergency, a release or incident must not be classified as "non-emergency" simply because workers are responding from their "normal work area." In determining whether a release or potential release would constitute an emergency, the key factor is the actual or estimated hazard exposure or degree of danger to employees. An incidental release does not pose an imminent health or safety hazard requiring immediate attention to prevent death or serious injury, and which workers can safely clean up without danger to themselves or others.

In a telephone conversation with our staff, you emphasized that workers would be responding to incidental, non-emergency releases outside their process area. The HAZWOPER standard does not apply to workers who are expected to clean up only non-emergency releases and who are unlikely to encounter an emergency release; HAZWOPER training is neither required nor intended for these workers. Training requirements of other OSHA standards would apply, such as the Hazard Communication Standard, to ensure that these employees are trained to safely perform clean-up. Nonetheless, OSHA would generally expect that operations level responders could safely clean up non-emergency hazardous substance releases provided they were familiar with the hazards of the specific substance released.

For your information, workers designated to perform defensive action in response to an emergency release must be certified at the First Responder Operations Level, which requires competency in the areas specified in paragraph 1910.120(q)(6)(ii). These include, among others, competency in control, containment, or confinement operations, basic decontamination procedures, standard operating procedures and termination procedures. If these mitigation techniques or standard operating procedures differ from one process area to another and operations level responders will be expected to respond to emergencies outside their own process area they must be trained to safely perform these additional procedures, and must be certified accordingly.

Further, emergency response workers must receive any additional training made necessary by the tasks they will be expected to perform, as the standard requires that training "be based on the duties and function to be performed by each responder." All emergency responders must be adequately trained to perform their expected job duties without danger to themselves or others. If you achieve these requirements through the training you provide, then your approach would be in compliance with the training requirements of the HAZWOPER standard. However, it seems unlikely that Hazard Communication training would be sufficient to meet the requirements for First Responders Operations Level unless your Hazard Communication training goes substantially beyond the minimum requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard.

Finally, you state that Hazmat Technician level training in offensive measures is not necessary because "contractors or public emergency response resources would be used in the event of an emergency beyond the plant's limited off-shift capability, as called for in our emergency response plan." It is acceptable to OSHA to train and designate your own employees to perform defensive action as a first response to emergency releases, and to arrange in advance to have an outside HAZMAT team come in to perform aggressive action to control an emergency release. The outside HAZMAT team(s) and their emergency telephone numbers must be specified in your emergency response plan. In addition, as part of your emergency preplanning, the outside HAZMAT team(s) should be provided in advance with basic information on your facility's hazards and operations, such as facility layout, hazardous substances present and their quantities.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please contact [the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190].


Roger Clark, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 6/2/2005]


April 15, 1993

Mary Ann Garrahan
U.S. Department of Labor- OSHA
Office of Health
Compliance Assistance
Room N-3469
200 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Ms. Garrahan:

The purpose of this letter is to document discussions I had on April 2 and April 8, 1993 with Ms. Sarah Pruitt of your office, regarding interpretation of 1910.120 para. (q). Specifically, the situation/interpretation I posed was as follows:

Our facility does not have a hazmat response team. In the event of an emergency, our operating personnel are designated as Operations Level responders. They would be expected to respond primarily to incidents within their process area. However, on off-shifts, only 7-9 people are normally on site. In the event of a hazardous material emergency in one unit, assistance may be requested from another unit, again from a defensive (Operations-Level) standpoint only. These employees should not be considered members of a (Technician-Level) Hazmat Team, and only Haz Com training on the hazardous materials in other process areas should be required to ensure their safety (and compliance with the training requirements of 1910.120(q). For the purpose of 1910.120(q), the entire plant site should be considered as the "normal work area." Technician-Level training (in offensive measures) is not required nor appropriate. Contractors or public emergency response resources would be used in the event of an emergency beyond the plant's limited off-shift capability, as called for in our Emergency Response Plan.



Ms. Pruitt indicated OSHA's agreement with this interpretation. I would appreciate your confirmation in writing of this agreement, including, if available, any written interpretations by OSHA in this area. I am in possession of a copy of the October, 1992 HAZWOPER INTERPRETIVE QUIPS (IQs) issued by OSHA, although I do not see this issue addressed here.

I appreciate your attention to this issue and look forward to a prompt reply. If you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact me at (609) 467-8303.


Martin R. Rose
Safety/IH Supervisor