OSHA HAZWOPER Specialist Criteria
OSHA HAZWOPER Specialist Criteria
When it comes to OSHA HAZWOPER, specifically hazardous waste/materials emergency response, what does it mean to be a specialist?
Within the OSHA HAZWOPER standard, and beyond general site personnel, section 1910.120(q)(5) addresses the topic of specialist employees. These designated employees perform critical roles within the employer HAZWOPER program, and specifically regarding emergency response. It is critical for employers to understand the training and competency requirements for these positions. Let us first look at the official OSHA description of these employees:
Specialist employees: Employees who, in the course of their regular job duties, work with and are trained in the hazards of specific hazardous substances, and who will be called upon to provide technical advice or assistance at a hazardous substance release incident to the individual in charge, shall receive training or demonstrate competency in the area of their specialization annually.
It is also important to understand the HAZWOPER specialist employee progressive hierarchy.
OSHA HAZWOPER Specialist Hierarchy
First Responder Awareness Level
Individuals who are likely to witness or discover a hazardous substance release and who have been trained to initiate an emergency response sequence by notifying the proper authorities of the release. They would take no further action beyond notifying the authorities of the release. First responders at the awareness level shall have sufficient training or have had sufficient experience to objectively demonstrate competency in: An understanding of what hazardous substances are and the risks associated with them in an incident.
- An understanding of the potential outcomes associated with an emergency created when hazardous substances are present.
- The ability to recognize the presence of hazardous substances in an emergency.
- The ability to identify the hazardous substances, if possible.
- An understanding of the role of the first responder awareness individual in the employer's emergency response plan including site security and control and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Emergency Response Guidebook.
- The ability to realize the need for additional resources, and to make appropriate notifications to the communication center.
First Responder Operations Level
Individuals who respond to releases or potential releases of hazardous substances as part of the initial response to the site for the purpose of protecting nearby persons, property, or the environment from the effects of the release. They are trained to respond in a defensive fashion without actually trying to stop the release. Their function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures. First responders at the operational level shall have received at least eight hours of training or have had sufficient experience to objectively demonstrate competency in the following areas in addition to those listed for the awareness level:
- Knowledge of the basic hazard and risk assessment techniques.
- Know how to select and use proper personal protective equipment provided to the first responder operational level.
- An understanding of basic hazardous materials terms.
- Know how to perform basic control, containment and/or confinement operations within the capabilities of the resources and personal protective equipment available with their unit.
- Know how to implement basic decontamination procedures.
- An understanding of the relevant standard operating procedures and termination procedures.
Hazardous Materials Technician
Individuals who respond to releases or potential releases for the purpose of stopping the release. They assume a more aggressive role than a first responder at the operations level in that they will approach the point of release in order to plug, patch, or otherwise stop the release of a hazardous substance. Hazardous materials technicians shall have received at least 24 hours of training equal to the first responder operations level and in addition have competency in the following areas:Know how to implement the employer's emergency response plan.
- Know the classification, identification, and verification of known and unknown materials by using field survey instruments and equipment.
- Be able to function within an assigned role in the Incident Command System.
- Know how to select and use proper specialized chemical personal protective equipment provided to the hazardous materials technician.
- Understand hazard and risk assessment techniques.
- Be able to perform advance control, containment, and/or confinement operations within the capabilities of the resources and personal protective equipment available with the unit.
- Understand and implement decontamination procedures.
- Understand termination procedures.
- Understand basic chemical and toxicological terminology and behavior.
Hazardous Materials Specialist
Individuals who respond with and provide support to hazardous materials technicians. Their duties parallel those of the hazardous materials technician; however, those duties require a more directed or specific knowledge of the various substances they may be called upon to contain. The hazardous materials specialist would also act as the site liaison with Federal, state, local, and other government authorities regarding site activities. Hazardous materials specialists shall have received at least 24 hours of training equal to the technician level and in addition have competency in the following areas:
- Know how to implement the local emergency response plan
- Understand classification, identification, and verification of known and unknown materials by using advanced survey instruments and equipment.
- Know the state emergency response plan.
- Be able to select and use proper specialized chemical personal protective equipment provided to the hazardous materials specialist.
- Understand in-depth hazard and risk techniques.
- Be able to perform specialized control, containment, and/or confinement operations within the capabilities of the resources and personal protective equipment available.
- Be able to determine and implement decontamination procedures.
- Have the ability to develop a site safety and control plan.
- Understand chemical, radiological, and toxicological terminology and behavior.
These specialist roles can also naturally progress into Incident Commander and respective Trainer positions as well. It can be assumed that employers can promote and advance specialist employees within their HAZWOPER program in accordance with the above hierarchy of positions and their requirements. However, an employer may also designate an employee to any of these roles based on previous criteria such as training, experience, competence, skill, and credentials.
Training for HAZWOPER Technicians and Specialists
You may have noticed the “or” between training requirements and competency/experience for First Responders, but that is not the case for HAZMAT Technicians and Specialists. Regardless of an employee’s qualifications, the employer is still responsible to conduct training for the employee based on that employee’s duties and function as it pertains to the employer’s specific program and associated process and procedures. These are addressed within section 1910.120(q)(6):
- Training shall be based on the duties and functions to be performed by each responder of an emergency response organization. The skill and knowledge levels required for all new responders, those hired after the effective date of this standard, shall be conveyed to them through training before they are permitted to take part in actual emergency operations on an incident. Employees who participate, or are expected to participate, in emergency response, shall be given training in accordance with paragraphs 1910.120(q)(6) through 1910.120(q)(6)(v)(F).
It is also wise to review Appendix E, Training Curriculum Guidelines - (Non-mandatory) within the HAZWOPER standard for more details on training topics for each specific specialist position.
There is also common confusion when it comes to refresher training. The OSHA HAZWOPER standard addresses refresher training requirements within section 1910.120(q)(8):
- 1910.120(q)(8)(i): Those employees who are trained in accordance with paragraph (q)(6) of this section shall receive annual refresher training of sufficient content and duration to maintain their competencies, or shall demonstrate competency in those areas at least yearly.
- 1910.120(q)(8)(ii): A statement shall be made of the training or competency, and if a statement of competency is made, the employer shall keep a record of the methodology used to demonstrate competency.
Refresher training, unlike initial training, gives employers the option between training and demonstrating competency. However, most employers seem to opt for refresher training or a combination of training and competency demonstration.
HAZWOPER Specialist Credentials
Finally, a quick word about employee credentials. Although OSHA does not directly address specific credentials, there are many applicable to OSHA HAZWOPER and sanctioned through the following industry-recognized bodies, including:
- American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH): http://abih.org/
- Board of Certified Safety Professionals (BCSP): https://www.bcsp.org/
- Institute of Hazardous Materials Management (IHMM): https://ihmm.org/
There are also a wide variety of Occupational Safety & Health academic degrees for employers to consider as well.
However, and regardless of employee certification, degree, or professional standing, it does not alleviate the employer from the employee training and competency requirements set forth within the OSHA HAZWOPER standard. These requirements and more are covered in the 40-hour HAZWOPER online training course from National Environmental Trainers.