Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.120(a)(3)


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 http://www.osha.gov.


July 31, 1990

Mr. Terry A. Noteboom
Environmental Engineer
Rockwell International Avionics Group
400 Collins Road N.E.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52498

Dear Mr. Noteboom,

This is in response to your letter of April 12 requesting clarifications of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (29 CFR 1910.120). Please accept my apology for the delay in this reply.

You mentioned that the definition section under emergency response appears to exempt "incidental" spills cleaned up by maintenance personnel. The intent is that spills without emergency consequences are not covered by the emergency response provisions of this standard. As you may be aware, the quantity of product spilled does not by itself determine if an incidental spill has occurred. Several variables, including the volume of the spill, must be considered in evaluating the hazard of the release to employees. Examples of other variables include the type of material spilled and the location of the spill. Other OSHA standards such as the Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200) would be applicable for incidental spills.

For the definition of "emergency response" to be satisfied:

1. The release or situation must pose an emergency. Examples are: it may cause high levels of exposures to toxic substances, it is life or injury threatening, employees must evacuate the area, it poses IDLH conditions, it poses a fire and explosion hazard (exceeds or has potential to exceed 25% of the 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) are not considered emergencies.

2. An ordinary spill that can be safely handled by the workers is not an emergency. Such employees must have the proper equipment and training under other OSHA standards such as the Hazard Communication Standard.

The training requirements for employees responding to control a spill which could result in an emergency situation are outlined in section (q)(6) of the standard. The amount of training specified is based on the duties and functions to be performed by each responder. The requirements for post-emergency clean-ups are set forth in (q)(11) of the standard.

Where applicable, all employees involved in an emergency response must be trained under 29 CFR 1910.120. Thus, your options are to ensure employees are adequately trained to respond or use emergency response contractors for small and large spills and provide an emergency action plan in accordance with [29 CFR 1910.38]. To further assist you with the training requirements under this standard, I have enclosed a copy of the following OSHA article, "Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response: A Closeup Look at Training."

I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Patricia K. Clark, Director Designate
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

Enclosure

(Correction 2/10/2003)

HAZARDOUS WASTE OPERATIONS AND EMERGENCY RESPONSE:

A CLOSEUP LOOK AT TRAINING


By T.H. Seymour, P.E.


On March 6, 1989, OSHA promulgated a final rule on Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (29 CFR Part 1910). The rule, which will take effect on March 6, 1990, is a direct result of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA).

SARA (42 USC 9601, Titles I-IV) set the nation on a path toward better preparedness in dealing with emergencies involving the release of hazardous substances. The law also strengthened the nation's efforts to clean up hazardous waste and deal with other issues on hazardous chemicals. SARA required OSHA to develop interim1and final rules, and Congress identified specific criteria for the agency to follow in establishing regulations for hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities.

For example, Title I of SARA specifies safety and health requirements for employers and Title III deals with local community emergency response plans. These two sections are examined here with respect to the OSHA standard and, in particular, their training requirements. The training requirements are significant because this is the first time that OSHA has mandated a specific number of training hours in a final rule.

Title I, Section 126 of SARA required OSHA to develop a standard that would set minimum safety and health requirements for (1) employers in hazardous waste or substance clean-up activities at government identified sites2; (2) employers involved in storing, treating, or disposing of hazardous waste; and (3) employers involved in emergency response to the release of hazardous substances.

SARA required that the OSHA standards include, at a minimum, the following areas: site analysis, training, medical surveillance, protective equipment, engineering controls, maximum exposure limits, information, hazardous waste handling, new technologies, decontamination procedures, and emergency response.

Although each of these issues is important in protecting workers, the purpose of this article is to examine, in some detail, the training requirements of the final rule for each of the three categories of employers covered.

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1 See Federal Register 51:4564, December 19, 1986.
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2 Examples include the National Priority List of sites as well as those listed by other federal agencies and by state or local governments.
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Hazardous Waste Cleanup Operations

Paragraph (e) of the standard establishes the initial training requirements for employees and supervisors who are or will be involved in hazardous waste/substance cleanup operations at government-identified sites.

The training requirements are organized in a tiered arrangement (see Table 1). In the first tier are employees and supervisors who remove or excavate hazardous substances at the site. For example, this category includes laborers, operating engineers and their supervisors.

Before beginning work, these individuals must have 40 hours of training offsite and then 24 hours of on-the-job training with a trained and experienced supervisor. All supervisors who will be working in these operations must have eight additional hours of specialized training in managing hazardous waste operations.

The required training for supervisors concerns safety and health issues, such as the supervisor's role and responsibilities in the employer's safety and health program, the medical surveillance program, and the training program.

The second tier sets forth the criteria for training employees who are on-site only occasionally to do a specific job (paragraph (e)(3)(ii)). For example, this would cover employees surveying the perimeter of a site to make a plat or to mark boundaries.

Workers who are on-site for short periods, and thus are unlikely to be exposed above any permissible exposure limit (PEL), are required to have a minimum of 24 hours of training off-site and then 8 hours of on-the-job training on-site by a trained and experienced supervisor.

Likewise, paragraph (e)(3)(iii) covers workers who will be on-site on a more regular basis, but who do not risk exposure above the PELs or to any other health hazard and are not subjected to the possibility of an emergency situation.

For example, such individuals might include those involved in the final work activities in completing a closure operation on a site before it is removed from the government list.

These workers are required to have 24 hours of training off-site, and then 8 hours of on-the-job training by a trained and experienced supervisor. In either case, the required training is to be taken before employees may perform their regular job duties without close supervision.

Supervisors or managers who work at cleanup sites must receive eight hours of training beyond the initial basic training requirements. This additional training includes areas such as their employer's occupational safety and health program and their role in the program.

Workers and supervisors at all three levels of exposure are also required to receive eight additional hours of annual refresher training.

As appropriate, experienced incumbent employees may substitute prior training and experience for initial training requirements in the same subject.

Treatment, Storage and Disposal Sites

The next group of employers covered are those who store hazardous waste on their premises for more than 90 days, or are involved in treating or disposing of hazardous waste. These employers are covered under paragraph (p) of the standard. The applicable training requirements for employees of these employers are in paragraphs (p)(7) and (p)(8)(iii). (See Table 2.) Initial training of at least 24 hours is mandatory for all new employees in this category. The training is expected to cover the employer's safety and health program, medical surveillance, decontamination, emergency response, hazard communication, new technology, and employee training, among others. The initial training is to inform and instruct new employees about their assigned duties and any related hazards and about their employer's safety and health policies and procedures. Moreover, employees who may be involved in emergency response operations need additional training.

At any rate, all employees on the permitted site area are to be provided eight hours of refresher training annually. Incumbent employees who are experienced and who have received training before the standard takes effect may substitute their prior training, where appropriate.

Other Emergency Response Staff

Employers of emergency response personnel are covered by the training requirements of paragraph (q) of the final rule. These employees respond from their typical work area to an emergency where hazardous substances are released or may be released (see Table 3).

In promulgating these requirements, OSHA used the National Fire Protection Association's Standard3 as a model. OSHA's final rule also includes training criteria for the on-the-scene incident commander, specialist employees and skilled support employees. These types of position classifications were not included in the National Fire Protection Association Standard.

The OSHA standard establishes a continuum of training requirements for emergency responders, progressing from the "first-responder awareness level," at the lower, or first, level to the "hazardous materials specialist" and "incident commander" at the higher, or fifth, level.

At the first-responder awareness level, the competency level of training is directed toward the police, guard service personnel, night watchmen, emergency medical responders including ambulance personnel, and others who are likely to discover or respond to emergency incidents involving hazardous substances.4 The training is targeted at teaching employees to recognize the human hazards present during these emergencies and how to protect themselves against such hazards. The required training also includes how to accurately and fully report the necessary information to an "alarm dispatcher" so that subsequent emergency responders are fully informed. Many first-responder awareness training courses presently run from 4 to 12 hours, but the standard does not set a mandatory minimum.

The next level of training is for "first-responder operations." This is the level at which fire departments and fire brigade units typically operate. Such firefighting teams usually have complete ensembles of firefighter protective clothing and positive-pressure respiratory protective equipment available to them.
Eight hours of training is mandatory for the first-responder operations level, in addition to worker competency at the first-responder awareness level. The required training is to prepare these employees to perform diking, ditching, and similar activities of a defensive nature -- activities that do not require chemical protective clothing.

Where a fire occurs at the operations level, offensive actions may be taken to extinguish the fire provided that no chemical protective clothing is required. For example, in the case of a liquified petroleum gas fire, personnel at the first-responder operations level would work to shut off the gas flow and extinguish the fire once it was determined that no other chemicals are present and that offensive actions are required.

When these employees are expected to handle emergencies involving flammable liquids and gases in an offensive mode, then additional training is necessary and a minimum of 24 hours of training at the first-responder operations level is recommended. Such a 24-hour operations level training course will prepare those wishing to move up to the technician level of the on-scene commander level.

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3 See NFPA Publication No. 472-1989, Standard for Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents (Quincy, Massachusetts: NFPA, 1989).
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4 Section 126 of SARA, paragraph (f), requires that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgate regulations to provide protection equal to that found in OSHA's standard for state and local government workers who would not be covered by OSHA-approved state plans. See Worker Protection Standards for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, 40 CFR Part 311, et seq., issued by the EPA on June 23, 1989. Also notice that EPA's regulations define covered employees as including "compensated or non-compensated worker[s]...controlled directly by State or local government" (40 CFR Part 311.2).
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Next in the training hierarchy are the requirements for "hazardous materials technicians" and "hazardous material specialists." These are the employees OSHA expects to be used to staff "hazardous materials teams" (Hazmat teams), spill control teams, and similar groups. Consequently, these employees must have chemical protective clothing available for their use.

The skill requirements for the hazardous material technicians are somewhat lower than those for the hazardous materials specialists. Hazardous materials technicians must have 24 hours of training at the first-responder operations level in addition to the knowledge and skills training the standard sets forth as necessary for these technicians.

The standard requires that hazardous materials technicians know, among other things, how to implement the employer's emergency response plan, how to properly select and use specialized chemical personal protective equipment and clothing, and how to implement proper decontamination procedures for hazardous substances.

The more skilled hazardous materials specialists will generally serve as the senior members of hazmat teams. At this level are the most highly skilled and trained responders having the broadest knowledge of hazardous substances.

The training required for a hazardous material specialist includes at least 24 hours of training at the technician level and such additional training or experience as necessary to acquire the knowledge and skills set forth in the standard.

The necessary skills and knowledge are to include, among other things, (1) how to implement the emergency response portions of the local emergency response plan developed under SARA Title III, (2) how to develop a site safety and control plan for hazardous substances emergency incidents, (3) how to properly use and calibrate hazardous substance sampling instruments (such as multiple organic vapor analyzers and the photoionization detectors), and (4) an understanding of the emergency response portions of the state emergency response plan developed under SARA Title III.

The on-scene incident commander, or officer in charge of the overall operations at the scene of an incident, should be a generalist with a broad knowledge of managing emergency incidents.

The commander level requires at least 24 hours of training at the first-responder operations level, with additional training or experience in how to manage emergency incidents involving hazardous substances.

At a minimum, the additional training is to include an understanding of (1) how to implement the employer's incident command system and the employer's emergency response plan, (2) the hazards and risks that are faced by responders working in chemical protective clothing, (3) how to implement the relevant parts of the local emergency response plan created under SARA Title III, and (4) the importance of following decontamination procedures.

Other categories of emergency responders identified in the standard include the "skilled support person," and "specialist employee." Skilled support personnel are those who may occasionally assist the incident commander by operating cranes, back hoes, or trucks. Since many of these workers do not expect to help in such incidents and do not have even minimal awareness training, attention must be given to their proper safety and health protection at the scene before they participate in the incident. This can be accomplished by an on-site briefing that includes a discussion of the hazards present, the personal protective clothing and equipment to be used, how the equipment is used, and the exact task they are expected to perform.

The "specialist employee" is an expert who may assist, counsel, or advise the incident commander. Specialist employees may provide technical assistance in operations such as servicing specific valves on a tank car, or in similarly skilled areas, in addition to offering advice. Specialist employees could also be medical or environmental experts.

Even though specialist employees are experts in their respective areas, they must be trained in how to interact within the incident command structure, and how to follow the operating procedures established by their employer. Their required training also is to inform them of the hazards that may be present at an emergency site.

All emergency response personnel covered by paragraph (q) must receive refresher training, at least annually, to ensure that their skills and competencies do not deteriorate and are not forgotten. Training that expands the knowledge of emergency responders upward along the continuum is acceptable to meet the annual refresher training requirements for the year during which the training was received.

It should be mentioned that the OSHA interim final rule requires 24 hours of training annually for emergency responders. The emergency responders who received training under the interim final rule should be able to apply a good portion of that training towards meeting the requirements of the final rule for their specific level of response.

For example, fire department or fire brigade members who received training at the first-responder operations level under the interim final rule may use those training hours that are relevant to their assigned duties to meet their obligations under the final rule. This is also true for hazardous materials team members and on-scene incident commanders.

As a result, some additional training for experienced emergency responders may be necessary to comply fully with the training requirements for their response level. Newly employed personnel, however, will need to comply fully with all the hours of training and related competencies for the level of work they are expected to perform.

Summary

Title III of SARA, "The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986," focuses on numerous issues that complement OSHA's standard. This law prescribes in detail the efforts to be made by states and local planning districts to develop and implement effective emergency response plans for their communities. The planning efforts are now, and will continue to be, of major significance in helping employers and emergency response organizations develop complete, quality plans, and to utilize such plans effectively.

Local emergency response plans must include training schedules, and schedules for conducting drills and exercises of the local district plans. Drills and exercises may be used, in part, to help meet the annual refresher training requirements for covered employees.

As discussed above, OSHA's hazardous waste standard requires that various responders be trained according to their responsibilities so they are knowledgeable of local emergency response plans, and are able to effectively implement the plan. These OSHA requirements and those of Title III of SARA interact effectively and support each objective in achieving the ultimate goals of ensuring the safety and health of emergency responders, as well as providing improved coordination and protection for local communities.

Thomas Seymour is Deputy Director of OSHA's Directorate of Safety Standards Programs.

Bibliography

Brunacini, Alan V. Fire Command. Quincy, Massachusetts: NFPA, 1985.

Brunacini, Alan V., and Beageron, J. David. Workbook for Fire Command. Quincy, Massachusetts, 1985.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. Public Law 96-510. 42 United States Code 9601. December 11, 1980.

Incident Command System. Fire Protection Publications. Stillwater, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, 1983.

National Fire Protection Association. Standard for Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials Incidents, NFPA No. 471-1989. Quincy, Massachusetts: NFPA, 1989.

Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986. Public Law 99-499. 42 United State Codes 9601, Titles I-IV. October 17, 1986.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Worker Protection Standards for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response - Final Rule. 40 Code of Federal Regulations Part 311.2. In: Federal Register, Vol. 54, No. 120, Part IV. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Federal Register, June 23, 1989. Pp 26654-62258.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site Activities. NIOSH/OSHA/USCG/EPA. Publication No. DHHS (NIOSH) 85-115. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985.

U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response - Final Rule. 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910.120. In: Federal Register Vol. 54, No. 42, Part III. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Federal Register, March 6, 1989,. Pp 9294-9336.

U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response - Interim Final Rule. 29 Code of Federal Regulations Part 1910.120. In: Federal Register, Vol. 51, No. 244, Part IV. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Federal Register, December 16, 1986. Pp 45654-45675.

U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response. Publication No. OSHA 3114. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989.

U.S. Department of Transportation. Research and Special Programs Administration. Office of Hazardous Materials Transportation. 1987 Emergency Response Guidebook. Publication No. DOT P 5800.4. Washington, D.C.: USDOT, 1987.

Table 1. Training Requirements
Hazardous Waste Clean-Up Sites
Staff
  • Routine site employees
    • 40 hours initial
    • 24 hours field*
    • 8 hours annual refresher
  • Routine site employees
    • 24 hours initial (minimal exposure)
    • 8 hours field*
    • 8 hours annual refresher
  • Non-routine site employees
    • 24 hours initial
    • 8 hours field*
    • 8 hours annual refresher

Supervisors/Managers of:
  • Routine site employees
    • 40 hours initial
    • 24 hours field*
    • 8 hours hazardous waste management
    • 8 hours annual refresher
  • Routine site employees
    • 40 hours initial (minimal exposure)
    • 8 hours field*
    • 8 hours hazardous waste management
    • 8 hours annual refresher
  • Non-routine site employees
    • 24 hours initial
    • 8 hours field*
    • 8 hours hazardous waste management
    • 8 hours annual refresher
*Refers to on-the-job training.
Note: See 29 CFR 1910.120(e).


Table 2. Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Sites
Staff
  • General permit site employees
    • 24 hours initial or equivalent
    • 8 hours annual refresher
  • Emergency response personnel
    • Trained to a level of competency for assigned duties
    • Annual refresher
Note: See CFR 1910.120(p)(7) and (p)(8).


Table 3. Training Requirements for Other Emergency Response Staff

Level 1 - First responder (awareness level)1
  • Sufficient training or proven experience in specific competencies
  • Annual Refresher
Level 2 - First responder (operations level)2
  • Level 1 competency and 8 hours initial or proven experience in specific competencies
  • Annual refresher
Level 3 - HAZMAT technician3
  • 24 hours of Level 2 and proven experience in specific competencies
  • Annual refresher
Level 4 - HAZMAT specialist4
  • 24 hours of Level 3 and proven experience in specific competencies
  • Annual refresher
Level 5 - On-scene incident commander5
  • 24 hours of Level 2 and additional competencies
  • Annual refresher


Note: See 29 CFR 1910.120 (q)(6).
1 Witnesses or discovers a release of hazardous materials and who are trained to notify the proper authorities. [back to text]

2 Responds to releases of hazardous substances in a defensive manner, without trying to stop the releases. [back to text]

3 Responds aggressively to stop the release of hazardous substances. [back to text]

4 Responds with and in support to HAZMAT technicians, but who have specific knowledge of various hazardous substances. [back to text]

5 Assumes control of the incident scene beyond the first-responder awareness level. [back to text]



May 10, 1990

MEMORANDUM FOR: Patricia Clark, Acting Director
[Directorate of Health Enforcement]

FROM: Stanley Elliott, Acting Director
[Directorate of Standards and Guidance]

SUBJECT: Review of Standards Interpretation for 29 CFR 1910.120

On May 2, 1990, Ms. MaryAnn Garrahan of your staff requested a review by this office of an interpretation of 29 CFR 1910.120. The interpretation was requested by Mr. Terry A. Noteboom of Rockwell International Avionics Group in a letter to you dated April 12, 1990. The following comments are offered by this Directorate:

1. In the second paragraph, after the first sentence, we would suggest language similar to the following: "The quantity of product spilled does not by itself determine if an incidental spill has occurred. Several variables, including the volume of the spill, must be considered in evaluating the hazard of the release to employees." Many employers are trying to draw a parallel connection between OSHA's emergency response definition and EPA's use of reportable quantities. We need to emphasize that other factors should play a role in the determination of an emergency.

2. In the fifth paragraph, beginning "The training requirements...", in the second sentence, the parenthetical note implies that 24 hours of emergency response training is the upper limit of training necessary in (q). The highest level of response, the hazardous materials specialist, requires a minimum of 24 hours of hazardous materials technician training plus competency in nine specific areas of response. Any attempt to acquire the competencies covered under (q)(6)(iv)(A) through (I) would require more than 24 hours of training. Experience from the rulemaking, including testimony at our hearings, shows that employees trained to the levels of competency required in (q)(6)(iv) have received in excess of 100 hours of training. We suggest adding the phrase, "...plus the training necessary for the competencies listed", at the end of the parenthetical note.



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