40 Hour HAZWOPER Training: Who Needs It?
Personnel involved in the cleanup and restoration of contaminated sites must have the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 40 Hour HAZWOPER Training (HAZWOPER 40) certification. If the work is under the purview of an approved OSHA State Plan, then you must comply with those particular State regulations as they have primacy. There are many times where this training is needed. Abandoned waste sites on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund National Priority List, chemical discharges to the environment that are not part of an emergency response, and business/government contracts that list this requirement. The 40 Hour HAZWOPER regulations are codified in 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1910.120 (e). The HAZWOPER regulations contain 3 levels of training for personnel. Emergency Response - 29 CFR 1910.120 (q), General Site Cleanup - 29 CFR 1910.120 (e) and Resource Conservation Recovery Act (RCRA) Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facilities (TSDF) - 29 CFR 1910.120 (p).
40 Hour HAZWOPER (HAZWOPER 40) training falls under the General Site Cleanup provision - 29 CFR 1910.120 (e). It is critical to understand that training required for Emergency Response workers is quite different than that required for General Site Cleanup workers or RCRA TSDFs workers. While some of the training requirements are similar for the 3 levels, General Site Cleanup workers are typically exposed to hazardous substances for a longer duration. This is because cleanup of most abandoned waste sites require a longer completion time. For General Site Cleanup workers, this potentially involves workers exposed to hazardous substances at or above the OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). When the PELs have been reached or exceeded, it requires workers to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Typically, this consists of respiratory protection and a special chemical suit that will protect workers from the various hazardous substances. Individuals involved in the following jobs or work tasks usually require this training.
- Removing or handling of underground tanks and/or piping
- Handling contaminated soil and/or groundwater
- Conducting subsurface investigations
- Participating in construction work in which hazardous substances may potentially be present.
- Working at an uncontrolled hazardous waste site as listed by a Federal or State Regulatory agency.
- Performing work at a listed or proposed for listing on the Superfund National Priority List (NPL).
- Performing work at a listed site or proposed for listing on a State priority list.
- Conducting operations at corrective action sites covered by U.S. EPA's Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
- Working at sites that pose Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health (IDLH) conditions. (This is rare for General Site Cleanup workers but we list it because of the seriousness.) OSHA regulations define the term as "an atmosphere that poses an immediate threat to life, would cause irreversible adverse health effects, or would impair an individual's ability to escape from a dangerous atmosphere."
For worksites that are not regulated by HAZWOPER, workers must be trained as required by any other OSHA required regulations. For example, if there is a need to enter a permit-required confined space, the worker(s) would need additional training for entrant(s) and attendant(s) according to the Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.146, prior to entry into a confined space.
Personnel are required to maintain their certification on an annual basis. Failure to do so is covered in the next section.
40 Hour HAZWOPER Training Expiration
Certified workers are required to take annual refreshers to maintain their certification. People who work in the environmental health and safety profession sometimes let their HAZWOPER certification expire. When this happens, they have a choice to complete the 40 hour course again or take an 8 hour annual refresher. OSHA has written various interpretation letters on the subject. Essentially, the employer must make the decision. OSHA holds the employer ultimately responsible for providing proper training of their employees. If the employer believes the employee still possesses the requisite knowledge and skills to safely perform HAZWOPER work, they can allow the employee to take the refresher course. If this happens, a letter documenting the action should be placed in the employees personnel file. This will serve both the employer and employee well if there is ever an OSHA audit of the site.
For people who opt to complete the 40 hour course again, this will be the start of their new anniversary date. So, annual refreshers must be completed on or before their anniversary date.
HAZWOPER Training Levels