- 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.
September 06, 2019
Mr. Scott W. Vogel
Chief Executive Officer
41 Murray Street
Rahway, New Jersey 07065
Dear Mr. Vogel:
Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter was referred to OSHA’s Directorate of Enforcement Programs for a response. You have a question related to OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard, 29 CFR 1910.120. You were also contacted by a member of my staff to obtain additional clarification on the nature of tasks performed by workers in your industry and associated hazards. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and our response is below.
Background: In your letter, you state that you are seeking clarification on whether training requirements in OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard are applicable to the biohazard remediation industry. You add that you are in agreement with the application of OSHA’s Bloodborne Pathogens standard to your industry, as explained in OSHA’s letter to Mr. Dave Middleton, May 22, 2007. You also refer to the regulation of hazardous substances by both the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and OSHA, by stating that such substances are considered hazardous materials (HAZMAT) under DOT rules and are also defined at 29 CFR 1910.120(a)(3) in OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard. When contacted, you clarified that your company and other companies in your industry provide biohazard clean-up/remediation services for several scenarios, e.g., violent crimes like homicides, accident scenes, suicides, unattended deaths, and transportation and industrial accidents. You also indicated that workers might be exposed to blood and other bodily fluids and tissues, biological agents, hazardous drugs, narcotics, and cleaning chemicals during biohazard remediation.
Question: Does OSHA require employers to train employees that perform biohazard remediation according to the training requirements set forth in its HAZWOPER standard?
Response: Generally, biohazard remediation workers who respond to a declared emergency for the release of a hazardous substance at a particular site must be trained in accordance with the HAZWOPER standard at 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6). Additionally, workers who perform post-emergency response clean-up after the emergency is declared over must be trained in accordance with the HAZWOPER standard at 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(11).1
Employers with workers who engage in emergency response and post-emergency response operations must comply with all other applicable OSHA standards, including specific training provisions in the standards that apply to their operations. Other OSHA standards that may apply include, but are not limited to: 29 CFR 1910.132, General Requirements for Personal Protective Equipment; 29 CFR 1910.134, Respiratory Protection; 29 CFR 1910.1200, Hazard Communication; and, for any workers exposed to bloodborne pathogens, 29 CFR 1910.1030, Bloodborne Pathogens.
Where a biohazard remediation company does not perform emergency response and post-emergency response clean-up operations covered by OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard, but provides clean-up services to homeowners, business owners, or other entities when neither the site owner nor a government authority has declared an emergency, or when all emergency and post-emergency response workers have cleared the site of a declared emergency, then the remediation employer would need to comply with only those OSHA standards that apply to its operations, such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph.
The training requirements in OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard apply only to operations covered by the standard. See 29 CFR 1910.120(a)(1) for information on the scope of the HAZWOPER standard. The HAZWOPER standard is a performance-oriented standard; the level and type of training under this standard must be based on reasonably anticipated worst-case scenarios. Employers must determine the appropriate training levels for their employees by taking into account the potentials hazards the workers could be exposed to, as well as the variability of events and operations in which workers are expected to engage.
If biohazard remediation workers are engaged in a declared emergency response for the release of a hazardous substance, as defined at 29 CFR 1910.120(a)(3), then they would be covered by 29 CFR 1910.120(q). Paragraphs (q)(6)(i)-(v) specify training requirements for all categories of responders based on the “duties and functions to be performed by each emergency responder.” Accordingly, workers who undertake an offensive or aggressive role in stopping or controlling the release of a hazardous substance(s) must have training equal to the hazardous materials technician level, i.e., 24 hours of training. 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(iii). Workers who assume a defensive or non-aggressive role would only need to have training equivalent to the first responder operations level, i.e., 8 hours of training, including training on decontamination and personal protective equipment. 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(ii).
Additionally, post-emergency response operations employers whose employees remove hazardous substances and materials contaminated with them (e.g., contaminated soil or other elements of the natural environment) from the site of the incident, must meet all of the requirements of paragraphs (b)-(o), as specified at 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(11)(i). Compliance with paragraph (q)(11)(i) also entails meeting the training requirements in paragraphs (e)(3) Initial training, and (e)(4) Management and supervisor training.
Accordingly, depending on the workers’ duties and duration of time on the site, initial training for general site clean-up is either 24 hours or 40 hours off-site, with 1 or 3 days of actual field experience under the direct supervision of a trained, experienced supervisor. 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3). On-site managers and supervisors must receive 24 or 40 hours of initial training, and 1 or 3 days of supervised field experience, depending on the tasks performed by the employees they supervise, and at least eight additional hours of specialized training at the time of job assignment. 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(4). There might be departures from the types of trainings specified here (e.g., because of variability in sites and tasks performed) or additional stated training; therefore, it is important that the specific training requirements in paragraphs (e)(3) and (e)(4) be followed, as applicable.
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 assure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA’s website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of Health Enforcement at (202) 693-2190.
Patrick J. Kapust, Acting Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs
1 Please note that there is a difference between HAZMAT and HAZWOPER training. The former is to train employees on how to safely transport hazardous substances per DOT regulations whereas the latter applies to training for remediation of contaminated sites, treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes, and emergency response, in accordance with OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard. Although HAZMAT is defined in the HAZWOPER standard, it relates to the emergency response component of the standard for handling and controlling releases or potential releases of hazardous substances including biological agents.