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Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents
• Standard Number: 1910.120


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.


September 20, 1991

Mr. Ron Runge
Director, Safety and Risk Management
Health, Environment and Safety
UNOCAL Corporation
1201 West 5th Street
Post Office Box 7600
Los Angeles, California 90051

Dear Mr. Runge:

This is in further response to your letter of July 29, to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (29 CFR 1910.120).

In your inquiry dated May 16, you described the following scenario:
Propane is being released and has ignited. The isolation valve is near the fire. Emergency responders from the immediate release area wearing the appropriate fire fighting bunker gear and using the protection of water hose streams will approach near the fire to close the isolation valve, thus starving and extinguishing the flame.
Your first question and your suggested answer read as follows:
Question #1. What level of HAZWOPER training per 1910.120(q) would be required for the emergency responders to perform this fire fighting operation, in addition to the training already provided under subpart L, 1910.156?

Answer #1. Emergency responders would require HAZWOPER training to the first responder operations level, due to the primary hazard being that of fire and not a toxicity hazard. This is based on responders having received all of the training necessary under subpart L, 1910.156 to take appropriate action.
In our answer we stated that:
The [Office of Health Enforcement] does not concur entirely with the answer provided. First, the criteria of toxicity is not a valid criteria, nor is it found in the regulation. A response to a fire is considered an emergency response to the release of a hazardous substance if the material on fire can be classified as a hazardous substance before it ignited.

Second, keep in mind that 1910.120 is a performance oriented standard allowing different solutions to particular scenarios. The underlying requirement for training in paragraph (q) is that any emergency responder be sufficiently trained to carry out his/her responsibilities in a safe manner.

First responder operations level employees are not trained to a level which allows them to take aggressive action to stop or contain a leak. They are trained to take defensive action only. In the scenario described in your letter, the shutting off of the valve may be handled by an operations level person if as a result of the fire fighting efforts the valve is now outside the danger area.
After receiving our response you asked whether you would be in compliance with 1910.120 if your employees received operations level training enhanced by additional training specific to fighting propane fires and shutting off the valve inside the danger area. We concur, and amend our original statement to say "Operations level personnel trained in the hazards of propane may enter the danger area to shut off the valve."

This is considered to be a special case. The principle hazards from propane are fire and explosion, not toxicity. Propane fires are common and most fire fighters are fully trained and equipped to respond to propane fires, including offensive action to shut off the valves in the danger area. If they have this training (which is a high degree of training), and have received first responder operations level training, OSHA believes they have sufficient training to take offensive action due to propane's relatively low toxicity.

Therefore, if a fire fighter who took offensive action in the danger area during a propane fire or leak was fully trained and equipped to handle the fire and had first responder operations training, it would only be a technical violation of [29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)] for not having the additional training required of a HAZMAT technician. In this circumstance OSHA would not issue a citation.

Releases of gasoline similar to the example involving propane discussed above, may be addressed by an operations level emergency responder if they have had specific training in the safety and health hazards associated with gasoline. Employers who expect employees to shut off a gasoline valve in the danger area, who can show that employees are trained to the operations level and adequately trained in the hazards of gasoline, have committed a technical violation of 1910.120(q)(6)(iii).

The fire and explosion hazards of propane and gasoline are very substantial. This interpretation is only applicable when fire fighters are fully trained and equipped to handle the explosion and fire hazards of propane and gasoline.

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

Sincerely,



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


July 29, 1991

Mr. Ron Runge
Director, Safety and Risk Management
Health, Environment and Safety
UNOCAL Corporation
1201 West 5th Street
Post Office Box 7600
Los Angeles, California 90051

Dear Mr. Runge:

This is in response to your inquiry of May 16, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (29 CFR 1910.120).

You describe the following scenario; Propane is being released and has ignited. The isolation valve is near the fire. Emergency responders from the immediate release area wearing the appropriate fire fighting bunker gear and using the protection of water hose streams will approach near the fire to close the isolation valve, thus starving and extinguishing the flame.
Your first question and your suggested answer read as follows;
Question #1. What level of hazwoper training per 1910.120(q) would be required for the emergency responders to perform this fire fighting operation, in addition to the training already provided under subpart L, 1910.156?

Answer #1. Emergency responders would require hazwoper training to the first responder operations level, due to the primary hazard being that of fire and not a toxicity hazard. This is based on responders having received all of the training necessary under subpart L, 1910.156 to take appropriate action.
The [Office of Health Enforcement] does not concur entirely with the answer provided. First, the criteria of toxicity is not a valid criteria, nor is it found in the regulation. A response to a fire is considered an emergency response to the release of a hazardous substance if the material on fire can be classified as a hazardous substance before it ignited.

Second, keep in mind 1910.120 is a performance oriented standard allowing different solutions to particular scenarios. The underlying requirement for training in paragraph (q) is that any emergency responder be sufficiently trained to carry out their responsibilities in a safe manner.

First responder operations level employees are not trained to a level which allows them to take aggressive action to stop or contain a leak. They are trained to take defensive action only. In the scenario described in your letter, the shutting off of the valve may be handled by an operations level person if as a result of the firefighting efforts the valve is now outside the danger area.

Your second question reads as follows;
Question 2. Would the level of training required in question #1 be different if the emergency responders were operators in the area where the fire occurred? If so what level of training would be required per 1910.120(q)?

Answer 2. No, same as answer #1. The primary hazard is still fire and not one of toxicity.
The [Office of Health Enforcement] agrees that in the described scenario the status of being an "operator in the area" would not influence the amount of required training, however toxicity is not the issue.
Question 3. Would the level of training in question #1 be different if the isolation valve was not near the fire (i.e., outside the danger area)? If so, what level of training would be required per 1910.120(q) to close the valve?

Answer 3. Yes, since the emergency response operations are outside of the danger area, HAZWOPER training is not required.
If the operator is part of an emergency response covered by 1910.120 then the operator would be considered a specialist employee and must be trained accordingly.
Question 4. If the operator in the area went in with emergency responders in the original scenario wearing bunker gear to identify the valve that must be closed, what level of hazwoper training per 1910.120(q) would be required for the operator?

Answer 4. The operator would be considered a specialist employee and must be trained accordingly, because he is providing technical advice and assistance based on his regular job duties.
The [Office of Health Enforcement] concurs with that interpretation and refers the interested reader to 1910.120(q)(5).
Question 5. If the material released was a flammable liquid, such as gasoline, and the product had not yet ignited, what level of HAZWOPER training would be required per 1910.120 for emergency responders to close the isolation valve near the point of release? Assume the primary hazard is fire and the responders are wearing the appropriate bunker gear and SCBA.

Answer 5. Since the primary hazard is still fire, emergency responders must be trained to the First Responder Operations level.
The first responder operations level may be appropriate. However the emergency responder must have had specific training in how to respond to releases of flammable liquids that represent a fire or explosion hazard.

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

Sincerely,



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

[Corrected 1/6/03]



Standard Interpretations - Table of Contents

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