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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.
March 31, 2017
Chief Benjamin Herskowitz
Haz Mat 2, Environmental Fire Rescue Company
101 Champ Blvd.
Manheim, Pennsylvania 17545
Dear Chief Herskowitz:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was referred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs for a response. You requested clarification as to the training requirements under OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard (HAZWOPER), 29 CR 1910.120, for emergency medical service (EMS) personnel who respond to a hazmat incident in an ambulance or squad type of vehicle. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation only of the requirements herein, and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence.
In your letter you ask three questions, paraphrased below, about EMS personnel responding to the scene of a hazmat incident and requested clarification of when a specific level of training under § 1910.120(q)(6) would be required. You also provided copies of two EMS protocols from the State of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health for basic life support (BLS).
Scenario 1: Emergency Medical Service units have been dispatched to a hazardous materials incident, and the hazard has already been recognized and identified prior to dispatch.
Question 1: Do EMS personnel trained at the HAZWOPER awareness level, 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(i), have sufficient training to provide patient care and/or support to the Hazmat team and fire department?
Response:Training requirements for all classifications of emergency responders are based on the “duties and functions to be performed by each responder” and are found at § 1910.120(q)(6)(i)-(v). HAZWOPER is a performance-based standard allowing employers flexibility in meeting its requirements, although the level and type of training is to be based on reasonably anticipated worst-case scenarios.
EMS personnel trained to the first responder awareness level, § 1910.120(q)(6)(i), may have sufficient training to provide patient care only when the victim(s) have been removed from the danger area of a known or suspected release of hazardous materials and have been thoroughly decontaminated. Since EMS personnel are often the first on the scene, as first responders, they should be given first responder awareness level training as a minimum even if they are not expected to handle contaminated victims. See § 1910.120(q)(6)(i). Additionally, EMS personnel trained at the first responder awareness level may support the Hazmat team and fire department by controlling access to the release from a remote area. EMS personnel should at least be given an initial briefing at the site prior to their participation in any type of emergency response operation. There is no specific number of training hours required by § 1910.120(q)(6)(i) .
However, in situations where responding EMS personnel are expected to treat victims injured as a result of a known or suspected release of hazardous materials and who have been only superficially decontaminated or have not been decontaminated at all, the EMS personnel must be trained at least to the first responder operations level as provided in § 1910.120(q)(6)(ii). The minimum amount of training required by this paragraph is 8 hours.
Question 2: Do EMS personnel trained at the first responder operations level, 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(ii), have sufficient training to treat individuals, provide medical equipment, or transport victims who may be injured or contaminated by a release of hazardous materials?
Response: Yes. First responder operations level training, 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(ii), would be acceptable for EMS personnel who must treat individuals, provide medical equipment, or transport victims injured or contaminated by a release of hazardous materials.
Scenario 2: Pennsylvania BLS Protocols, 671 Burns and 831 Poisoning/Toxin Exposure, describe procedures for EMS personnel to decontaminate patients who have chemical burns, including that basic life support providers are expected to begin basic decontamination of the patient.
Question 3: At what level of HAZWOPER training do these basic life support (EMS) providers need to be trained?
Response: These EMS/life support providers must be trained at least to the first responder operations level because they will be performing basic decontamination. See 1910.120(q)(6)(ii)(E).
The emergency response plan for the jurisdiction should clearly define who will be responsible for decontaminating victims during an emergency response. The EMS personnel must be trained in accordance with the responsibilities they will be expected to assume during an emergency response as described in the Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC) response plan.
Since some EMS personnel are associated with a local hospital or other medical facility, we suggest that you review the guidance information provided in the OSHA publication, Best Practices for Hospital-based First Receivers (#3249), which can be found at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3249.pdf.
Finally, please note that Federal OSHA’s standards and enforcement authority do not extend to employees of state or local governments. With respect to HAZWOPER, state and local public sector employees are covered by the states that operate OSHA-approved State Plans (see https://www.osha.gov/dcsp/osp/index.html). In states without State Plans, these workers are covered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (see 40 CFR Part 311). State Plan states set and enforce standards, such as the HAZWOPER standard, which are identical to or “at least as effective as” Federal OSHA standards, and therefore may have more stringent or supplemental requirements. EPA’s HAZWOPER standard was adopted to cover public sector workers who are not covered by the OSHA standard. For consistency, OSHA interprets the HAZWOPER standard for EPA.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA’s requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA’s interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at https://www.osha.gov/
If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.
Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs