Many people confuse the terms Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) and Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT). The terms are very similar but their meanings differ considerably. Professionals in the Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) field for many years will tell you that HAZWOPER applies to training for contaminated sites whereas HAZMAT applies to the Department of Transportation (DOT). Well, there is some truth in this belief. HAZWOPER applies to the remediation of contaminated sites, emergency response and treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. Hazardous wastes are defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) regulations. Specifically, Subtitle C of the regulation is where you will find the definition of solid waste and hazardous waste. RCRA regulations are very complex.
The scope and breadth of RCRA has impacted almost every part of public and private sectors. HAZMAT is mentioned and referred to in the HAZWOPER regulations. Perhaps this is the reason why there is some confusion. HAZMAT relates to HAZWOPER in the emergency response component of the regulations. The regulations cover the full gamut of HAZMAT operations. First responders to HAZMAT Technicians must be properly trained and possess a high degree of competency prior to engaging in an emergency response scenario. So, HAZMAT is mentioned in the HAZWOPER regulations but most people assume that HAZMAT refers to DOT training. DOT training is function specific and required by anyone who offers a hazardous substance/material for public transportation. This pertains to the handling, packaging, shipping, and completion of documentation (bill of lading/manifest). Generally speaking, people who inquire about HAZMAT training are referring to DOT training. People who inquire about HAZWOPER training are referring to workers who remediate contaminated sites. Caution must be exercised to ensure that employees are receiving the correct training for the particular job they will perform. Please make sure your employees get the right training for the right job.