- 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.
October 19, 1995
Thomas Rice, M.P.H.
Wisconsin Public Service Corporation
700 North Adams
P.O. Box 19002
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54037
Dear Mr. Rice:
This is in response to your letter of April 10, requesting clarification of two Interpretive Quips (IQs) related to paragraph (q)(6) of OSHA's Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard. Your questions related to specific references within the IQ, one developed from OSHA's Emergency Response Compliance Directive entitled "Inspection Procedures for the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard, 29 CFR 1910.120, Paragraph (q): Emergency Response to Hazardous Substance Releases" (CPL 2-2.59), on page (q)(6)--(6) of the IQ and the other IQ based on a letter to T. Valente on October 2, 1991, on page (q)(6)--(16) of the IQ document. Our responses are provided below. Please except my apology for the delay in your response.
With respect to your letter's first four questions which relate to OSHA Compliance Directive CPL 2-2.59, on page D-12 entitled "Process Operators Taking Action Within a Facility," it is important to note that this quip refers to "process operators," not necessarily "emergency responders trained at the operations level." Process operators handle specific equipment/functions within a production process and are familiar with the work operations and hazards in their workplace and, therefore, may be capable of performing certain limited emergency response actions as discussed in the referenced quip. Your questions, however, refer to Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) employees who are trained at the operations level in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.120(q)6)(ii). Accordingly, our responses refer to emergency responders trained at the operations level.
Can an onsite or offsite WPS team or an offsite fire department/community team respond to emergency releases of hazardous substances?
If the teams you are referring to meet the requirements of 1910.120(q), and the identity, roles, responsibilities, and functions of the team are specified in the emergency response plan in accordance with paragraph (q)(1) and (q)(2), they may serve as your emergency response team.
Can operations level emergency responders enter an emergency release area to perform preventive action until the emergency response team arrives? If so, can this occur in a) an unknown or IDLH atmosphere, or b) an atmosphere with known concentrations of hazardous substances?
Operational level personnel generally will work in a defensive manner to stop the spread of the hazardous substance and this may require them to wear respirators and PPE. However, they normally may not enter the danger area to take aggressive action to stop the release. This type of work where toxic or nonflammable hazardous substances are involved would require a technician level of training to stop such releases of hazardous substances. Personnel working at the operations level are expected to implement the employer's emergency response plan. However, a person could be at the operational level and be trained to perform functions beyond the operations level. For example, individuals trained at the operations level may be permitted to enter the hot zone if they receive specific training beyond the operations level in a specific action they will be required to perform in the hot zone (such as fighting a chemical fire). Such actions must be anticipated and identified in the emergency response plan, and employees required to perform these actions must be appropriately trained, equipped, and rehearsed in performing them.
Is back-up needed for operations level emergency responders who take limited preventive action prior to the arrival of the emergency response team? If so, what training is required for the back-up team?
If a facility's emergency response plan specifies limited preventive emergency action to be taken within the emergency release area by individuals specifically trained beyond the operations level, these actions must be conducted under the buddy system and back-up personnel must be provided in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(3)(vi). When entering IDLH, potentially IDLH, or unknown atmospheres, a minimum of four individuals who are equally or better protected and trained individuals would be required [as stated in 29 CFR 1910.134(e)]; two for entry into the hazardous atmosphere, and two to remain outside the hazardous area as back-up personnel (see attached letter to Ms. P. Seminario, August 15, 1994). If you are able to use fewer workers and still provide protection to the individuals, you might consider applying for a variance through the OSHA Directorate for Technical Support at 202 219-7032.
What types of actions would be appropriate for operations level emergency responders to perform within the emergency release area prior to the arrival of the hazmat team?
As mentioned above, operations level emergency responders generally may not enter the danger area to take aggressive action to stop a release. In cases where employees are specially trained beyond the operations level, these employees may only take part in specific limited activities that are detailed in the emergency response plan and that the employees have been trained on, rehearsed for, and are equipped to perform. Accordingly, these limited exceptions to the general rule must be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the facility and its hazard and on the training level of the employee.
With respect to your final two questions, you cite a different quip (T. Valente October 2, 1991, page (q)(6)--16) which indicates that individuals trained beyond the operations level may be permitted to enter an emergency release area to perform limited procedures that support the activities of hazardous materials technicians or other qualified hot zone personnel if they receive specific training in the action(s) they are to perform.
Can operations level emergency responders with sufficient additional training to support specific actions of hazardous materials technicians within the emergency release area work within a) an unknown or IDLH atmosphere or b) an atmosphere with known concentrations of hazardous substances?
See response to questions 2 and 4 above.
What is the acceptable level of training the back-up team needs to have?
As indicated in the response to #3, the emergency response back-up team must be equipped and trained to at least a level identical to that of the team entering the emergency release area, if they are required to conduct the same work as the original workers; otherwise the level of training for the back-up team will control what it is permitted to do.
We hope this letter provides the clarification you sought. If you have additional questions, please contact this office at 202 219-8036.
Ruth E. McCully, Director
Office of Health Compliance Assistance