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How to Be HAZWOPER Ready in 2018

Posted on December 04, 2017 by Kim Folger

As the New Year swifly approaches, the time is right to reflect on what we learned in 2017 and how to do better in 2018. 

Unfortunately, looking back at the year that was, disaster comes to mind. Severe flooding and landslides all over the globe; earthquakes in Mexico, Italy, and China; wildfires in North and South America, Russia, and across Europe; and hurricanes in the Caribbean, US, and Ireland—yes, even Ireland! Natural and manmade disasters give us even more reason to make the resolution to be prepared in 2018.

The most effective emergency responses happen when people are prepared. Planning, training, and practicing for emergencies are important so that everyone knows what they must do and when to do it. If you are not trained, if you are unsure what should be done, or if the emergency is beyond your capabilities, protect yourself, evacuate, and alert others in the area to the emergency.

The OSHA HAZWOPER Standard and HAZWOPER Training

Following the HAZWOPER standard is one way to handle disasters or other emergencies. After all, the name HAZWOPER is an acronym for HAZardous Waste OPerations and Emergency Response.

The HAZWOPER standard applies to different types of employers and, in turn, their employees. Because there are so many covered employers and job sites out there, OSHA has created three groups based on similar worksite characteristics:
  1. Cleanup operations and corrective actions taking place at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (e.g., Superfund sites)
  2. Hazardous waste operations at treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) (e.g., hazardous waste landfills)
  3. Emergency response operations involving the release of a hazardous substance, regardless of where the release occurs
Workers in each group above must be trained on their responsibilities under the HAZWOPER standard. Different levels of training apply to different employees, depending on their specific job responsibilities.

Cleanup operation employees must abide by the HAZWOPER training regulations found at 29 CFR 1910.120(e). Find HAZWOPER training for cleanup operations here.

Personnel performing hazardous waste operations at TSDFs must adhere to the HAZWOPER training provisions at 29 CFR 1910.120(p).

Employees who respond to emergency releases of hazardous substances must be trained based on their level of responsibility under 29 CFR 1910.120(q). Below we break down the many levels of HAZWOPER emergency responder training that employees may need

The 5 Emergency Responder HAZWOPER Training Levels 

When people hear the words emergency responder, they typically think police, first-aid, or fire department personnel.

But when you work with hazardous substances, any employee may have responsibilities for emergency response and may be covered by the HAZWOPER standard: general workers, lab technicians, first responders, hazmat team members, medical personnel, and others.

The HAZWOPER training requirements established in 29 CFR 1910.120(q) apply to the following five levels of emergency responders based on the functions they will be expected to perform.
  1. First responder awareness level
  2. First responder operations level
  3. Hazardous materials technician
  4. Hazardous materials specialist
  5. On-scene incident commander
All responders must be trained so that they understand their limitations, be able to recognize the need for additional resources, and to make the appropriate notifications in an emergency. Regardless of the length and level of initial training needed, all responders must participate in annual refresher training.

Level I
First Responder Awareness Level
[29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(i)]

HAZWOPER first responders at the awareness level are individuals who are likely to witness or discover a hazardous substance release, including lab and warehouse personnel. 

Awareness level responders must be trained to initiate an emergency response sequence by notifying the proper authorities. Notification could include setting off an alarm, making an announcement over a public-address system, calling security, 911, or using a radio to contact the hazmat team. They would take no further action beyond notifying the authorities of the release.

First-responder awareness level training is the foundation upon which all other levels of HAZWOPER emergency response training build. There is no time requirement for this level of training; it is purely competency-based. First responders at the awareness level must be able to demonstrate:
  1. Hazardous substance awareness, identification, and recognition;
  2. An understanding of potential emergency outcomes and risks; and
  3. Their role in the Emergency Response Plan, including site security, control, and the Emergency Response Guidebook. 
The 2-hour HAZWOPER Awareness Level online course is now available to provide the classroom-based competency training needed for initial or refresher HAZWOPER Awareness training.

Level II
First Responder Operations Level [
29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(ii)]

First responders at the operations level are individuals who respond to releases, or potential releases, of hazardous substances for protecting nearby people, property, or the environment.

These first responders contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent hazardous substance exposure. They are trained to respond in a defensive fashion without trying to stop the release. Examples of defensive responses include remotely shutting down pumps or ventilation, putting covers on floor or storm drains, or placing absorbent booms to prevent spreading of the hazardous substance. 

First responders at the operations level must receive at least 8 hours of training or have had sufficient experience to objectively demonstrate competency at the awareness level plus several additional aspects including, but not limited to:
  1. Hazardous substance terminology and risk assessment;
  2. Selecting and using proper personal protective equipment (PPE);
  3. Performing basic control, containment and/or confinement operations; and  
  4. Understanding relevant standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Level III
Hazardous Materials Technician [
29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(iii)]

Hazardous materials technicians, also called emergency response technicians, are individuals who respond to releases or potential releases by approaching the point of release to plug, patch, or otherwise stop the release of a hazardous substance. Hazardous materials technicians must receive at least 24 hours of initial training equal to the first responder operations level, and they must demonstrate that they can also:
  • Understand hazard and risk assessment techniques and basic terminology and behavior;
  • Implement the emergency response plans and relevant procedures;
  • Select and use specialized PPE;
  • Function within Incident Command System (ICS);
  • Use field survey instruments and equipment to classify, identify and verify known and unknown materials; and
  • Perform advanced control, containment, and/or confinement operations.
New! Check out the new 8-hour HAZWOPER Refresher for Emergency Response Technicians (Level 3). This new online course provides the classroom-based competency training needed to satisfy HAZWOPER refresher mandates for hazardous materials technicians or emergency response technicians. 

Level IV
Hazardous Materials Specialist [
29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(iv)]

Hazardous materials specialists are individuals who respond with and provide support to hazardous materials technicians. Their duties parallel those of the hazmat technician; however, they require a more directed or specific knowledge of the various substances involved. They would also act as the site liaison with the authorities.

Hazmat specialists must receive at least 24 hours of training equal to the technician level and must be able to demonstrate competency in certain additional aspects of emergency response, such as:
  • Understanding, developing, and/or implementing all emergency plans and procedures;
  • Using advanced field survey instruments and equipment;
  • Performing specialized control, containment, and/or confinement operations; and
  • Possessing specific knowledge of hazardous substances and emergency response.

Level V
On-scene Incident Commander (IC) [
29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(v)]

On-scene incident commanders have overall responsibility for managing the emergency by establishing objectives, planning strategies, and implementing tactics. ICs must receive at least 24 hours of training and be competent to perform the first-responder operations-level duties and the following additional requirements:
  • Know and understand the hazards and risks of general emergency concepts;
  • Have knowledge of the Federal Regional Response Team; and
  • Know, understand, and be able to implement all company, local, and State emergency response plans and procedures, and the ICS.

Be Ready with Trusted
Online HAZWOPER Training

Available 24/7, Lion’s interactive OSHA safety training courses help employees be prepared whether it’s to identify, respond to, or avoid the hazards in your workplace. Employees who complete OSHA training at are ready to make on-the-job decisions that keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

New! Our 2-Hour HAZWOPER – Emergency Response First Responder Awareness Level I course provides the classroom-based competency content necessary for either the initial or annual refresher training required for employees that are awareness level first responders.

New! The 8-Hour HAZWOPER: Emergency Responder, Level 3 Refresher workshop offers the classroom-based competency content to satisfy the annual refresher training required for employees at the emergency response hazardous materials technician level per the OSHA HAZWOPER standard. Available in Sparta, NJ and coming soon in online course format. 

Do you work at a Superfund site or other uncontrolled hazardous waste site? Keep your HAZWOPER cleanup certification up-to-date with the 8-Hour OSHA HAZWOPER Refresher online course. Only $99.