Do I Really Need 40 Hours? Hazwoper Training Exposed

If you have an active team that either drills regularly or has real incidents, they are continually showing their competency each time they respond.

"Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response or better known as Hazwoper, requires 40 hours of initial training for everyone, right?" said Jerry Laws, editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

"No!" I said. "That's not right. The amount of initial training depends on what you are going to be doing at the site and how much you know about what you are going to be working with."

Jerry asked me to explain.

"Let's take a look at the scope of the regulation, Jerry, and see what each item is about." (Hazwoper is 29 CFR 1910.120 & 126.65; for convenience, we will be using the general industry reference in this article.)

1910.120(a) Scope, application, and definitions
1910.120(a)(1) Scope. This section covers the following operations, unless the employer can demonstrate that the operation does not involve employee exposure or the reasonable possibility for employee exposure to safety or health hazards:

  • 1910.120(a)(1)(i) Cleanup operations required by a governmental body, whether Federal, state local or other involving hazardous substances that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (including, but not limited to, the EPA's National Priority Site List (NPL), state priority site lists, sites recommended for the EPA NPL, and initial investigations of government identified sites which are conducted before the presence or absence of hazardous substances has been ascertained);
  • 1910.120(a)(1)(ii) Corrective actions involving cleanup operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq);
  • 1910.120(a)(1)(iii) Voluntary cleanup operations at sites recognized by Federal, state, local or other governmental bodies as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites;
  • 1910.120(a)(1)(iv) Operations involving hazardous waste that are conducted at treatment, storage, disposal (TSD) facilities regulated by 40 CFR Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA; or by agencies under agreement with EPA to implement RCRA regulations; and
  • 1910.120(a)(1)(v) Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard.

"Jerry, you are working for an environmental consulting company and your client tells you that the property they own is on EPA's NPL, the state has issued them a Notice of Violation, and they want you to tell them what's on the property and what's going to have to be done to clean it up. This action is covered under section (i). If we look at the RCRA regulations (40 CFR 260-268), we know that the 'person' who generates the waste is responsible for it from 'cradle to grave.' If that grave location happens to be property that the person owns or controls, that location is covered by section (ii).

"You want to be a good neighbor, and the regulators are telling you that your site is an uncontrolled hazardous waste site, but they haven't given you a Notice of Violation or a Compliance order -– that's covered by section (iii). If they give you the NOV, then you would be covered by either section (i) or (ii), depending on how the Notice was written. Section (iv) covers only those locations that have been permitted as TSDs.

"Everyone else who has a spill, release, or cleanup not covered by any of the above is covered by section (v). This also includes manufacturing plants that have hazmat teams to handle their spills or releases."

"How much time is required for training?" asked Jerry.

"As a good consultant, I will give you my consultant's answer: It depends! Here's what it depends on and, again, we go to the regulations. In §120(e), before anyone –- worker, supervisor, or management -- engages in anything 'that could expose them to hazardous substances' (§120(e)(1)(i)) ... they need to be 'trained to a level required by their job function and responsibility.' (§120(e)(1)(ii))

"In subparagraph §120(e)(3), initial training for general site workers and supervisors where they can be exposed to hazardous substances or the removal of those substances requires 'a minimum [emphasis added] of 40 hours of instruction off site and a minimum of three days' actual field experience under the supervision of a trained experienced supervisor.' (§120(e)(3)(i))

Jerry yelled, "That's it!"

"No, Jerry, calm down. We're not done yet. We still have some other situations to look at. The 24 hours of training comes from §120(3)(ii) & (iii) that allows for those coming on to the site only occasionally to do monitoring or surveying, for example, or if the site is fully characterized. Paragraph (iii) basically tells the chemical plant hazmat team that they can get by with the 24 hours of training because they know what they have. Oh, they also need one day of on-site training."

"But what about Awareness Level and Operations Levels?" Jerry asked. "How much training do they need?"

"Here's where our chemical plant hazmat team comes in. You remember that they were covered under section (v) in the scope, and those detail regulations are at §120(q). Training information at §120(q)(6) and (6)(i) describes the Fire Responder – Awareness Level. They only need sufficient training or sufficient experience so they can carry out their duties. That means you could give them four hours if they have some experience, for example, or eight, 12, or any amount of hours if they have no experience."

"So what do the Awareness Level folks have to do?" he asked.

"These folks may witness a release or discover the spill. They need to know who to contact for this emergency and not to go close to the hazardous substance. That's all that OSHA allows them to do," I said. "The regulations at §120(6)(ii) cover the next level higher and that is the First Responder – Operations Level. These employees need a minimum [emphasis added] of eight hours or to show competency in the seven skills listed in this section.

"In addition, the following jobs are required to have at least 24 hours of training and to be able to show competency in the various skills listed in their section of the regulations:

  • Hazardous Materials Technician §120(q)(6)(iii)
  • Hazardous Materials Specialist §120(q)(6)(iv)
  • On-Scene Incident Commander §120(q)(6)(v)

"I heard they also need refresher training on an annual basis, is that true?"

"Yes," I said. "That's covered under §120(q)(8). Many folks think that they need eight hours of refresher training, but that is a myth."

"A myth?" said Jerry. "What do you mean? I've seen advertisements for those eight-hour classes."

"Nowhere in §120(q)(8), subparagraphs (i) and (ii), does it mention the length of time for the refresher training. It says, 'sufficient content and duration to maintain their competencies, or shall demonstrate competency in those areas at least yearly.' If you have an active team that either drills regularly or has real incidents, they are continually showing their competency each time they respond. If, on the other hand, you team does not drill or does not have incidents, they will need to receive some refresher training to show they are still competent.

"Jerry, I know that this has been a lot of information to absorb, so I'm going to get you some nice warm milk as you read this over again. If you or your readers have questions, you can email me at"

This article originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Barry R. Weissman, REM, CSP, CHMM, CHS-V, CIPS, is Corporate Safety Manager for a national manufacturing company in the chemical sector. A member of the editorial advisory board of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, he can be reached at

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