Hazwoper Training Levels Explained

Covered under OSHA Standard 29 CFR Part 1910.120, Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) is a hazardous waste training applicable to employers and employees who deal with or are exposed to hazardous substances.

This includes those businesses or employees engaged in the storage, clean-up or disposal of such substances, or those who are part of an emergency response operation that may deal with hazardous waste situations and contamination.

Examples of Situations and Substances Requiring Hazwoper Training Include

  • Conditions that have a risk of explosion or fire
  • Corrective actions or cleanup efforts at hazardous waste sites
  • Situations that pose an imminent danger to health or life (IDLH) environment
  • TSDFs – landfills and sites for the treatment, storage or disposal of hazardous materials
  • Activities or situations involving high concentrations of toxic substances
  • Oxygen deficient atmosphere
  • Situations mandating evacuation of an area
  • Emergency response involving the actual or potential for hazardous waste spills

The 5 Hazwoper Training Levels

Hazwoper training requirements established by OSHA 29 CRF 1910.120(q) apply to five levels of emergency responders. These levels are directly related to the activities and functions of the responders in question and the expectations of their role.

  1. First Responder Awareness Level
  2. First Responder Operations Level
  3. Hazardous Materials Technician
  4. Hazardous Materials Specialist
  5. On-Scene Incident Commander

Hazwoper Level I

Applicable to those responders who may be the initial observers of hazardous substance release. These responders are typically on-site and work in roles such as warehouse or lab employees. These employees must be trained on how to properly initiate an emergency response sequence and to notify the correct parties through a designated chain of communication.

For example:

  • Triggering an alarm
  • Facility-wide announcement over intercom
  • Notifying on-site security
  • Calling 911
  • Enlisting any on-site hazmat teams

This training is foundational and sets the core competencies upon which further levels are built. They must be able to demonstrate awareness, accurate identification and recognition of hazards, understand risks and potential outcomes, and their role in an emergency response plan.

Hazwoper Level II

The First Responder Operations Level training is applicable to those individuals or parties responding to the potential or real release of a hazardous substance in order to preserve assets (such as inventory or property) and to protect both people and the environment.

Response training is defensive in nature, with containment and the prevention of spread and exposure key goals.

Responsibilities May Include:

  • Remotely shutting off pumps
  • Closing vents
  • Covering drains
  • Placement of absorptive substances to prevent the spread
  • And more…

First responder operations employees are required to complete a minimum of 8-hours of training or equivalent work experience with demonstration of competencies in the following:

  • Risk assessment
  • Terminology
  • Proper selection, use and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPR)
  • Basic containment, control and confinement ops
  • Operational understanding of emergency procedures

Hazwoper Level III

Hazardous Materials Technician Hazwoper training is required for those designated as “emergency response technicians” who are responsible for the response to release or potential release of hazardous materials and for taking action to patch, plug, or otherwise prevent further release.

They are required to undergo a minimum of 24 hours of training as well as demonstrating that they:

  • Have a requisite understanding of risk and hazard assessment
  • Understand related behavior and terminology
  • Are capable of implementing emergency response plans and procedures
  • Know what types of PPE to use and how to use it correctly
  • Can function accordingly within Incident Command System (ICS)
  • Are able to effectively utilize specialized equipment and survey instrumentation in order to identify, classify and verify both known and unknown materials
  • Can perform advanced containment, control and condiment ops

Hazwoper Level IV

The Hazardous Materials Specialist is a designation given to those responsible for providing additional support to hazardous materials technicians. As far as duties are concerned, they are on pace with those of a hazmat technician but in a supportive and more knowledge-based supportive role. They further act as a liaison between the company and any authorities that may be involved on scene.

Specialists are required to complete a minimum of 24-hours of training equivalent to that of the technician level. They must also be able to demonstrate adequate competency in areas of emergency response, including:

  • Creation and implementation of effective emergency response plans and related operating procedures
  • The ability to utilize specialized equipment and instruments in the field
  • Able to perform confinement, containment or specialized control operations
  • Possess requisite knowledge and understanding of both emergency responses and hazardous substances

Hazwoper Level V

On-Scene Incident Commanders are responsible for the overall management of any emergencies that arise. They are tasked with strategizing, developing and implementing preventative measures, organizational safety objectives, and tactics to handle hazardous materials risks.

They are mandated to have completed a minimum of 24 hours of training (many opt for 40 hours) as well as demonstrate an acceptable level of competence to perform duties including but not limited to:

  • A working understanding of hazardous waste and associated risks
  • Knowledge of the Federal Regional Response team
  • The ability to devise and implement company, local and state emergency response procedures and plans, and the ICS.

Prepare for the Worst But Hope for the Best

Defending against hazardous waste emergencies begins with proper planning and training. Be sure that your team is up to date with all OSHA mandated safety training and that your team and organization are ready and well-prepared to handle any issue that arises.

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