How to Be HAZWOPER Ready

Posted on 12/4/2017 by Lion Technology Inc.

HAZWOPER is an OSHA workplace health and safety Standard that exists to protect employees who perform emergency response or contaminated site cleanup involving hazardous substances.

HAZWOPER is short for HAZardous Waste OPerations and Emergency Response.

Though “hazardous waste” is in the title, the scope of the HAZWOPER Standard is not limited to hazardous waste. OSHA’s definition of hazardous substance includes hazardous wastes regulated by US EPA as well as DOT hazardous materials, substances regulated under CERCLA/Superfund, and biologic agents (29 CFR 1910.120(a)(3)).

Read more: What is a HAZWOPER Hazardous Substance?

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, you should protect yourself, evacuate, and alert others in the area to the emergency.

The OSHA HAZWOPER Standard and HAZWOPER Training

hazardous-waste-barrels.jpgThe 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 must be trained on specific topics that are relevant to their responsibilities under the HAZWOPER Standard. The specific HAZWOPER training requirements for each employee depends on their job type and job responsibilities.

Training Employees Under HAZWOPER

The rules for training site workers at contaminated cleanup sites are found in 29 CFR 1910.120, paragraph (e). Site workers must complete 40 hours of initial training and three days of supervised field experience before they can begin work, for example (Learn More).

Hazardous waste personnel at TSDF sites must adhere to training provisions found in paragraph (p) of the HAZWOPER Standard.

Employees who respond to emergency releases of hazardous substances must be trained based on their level of responsibility during an emergency response scenario. The training requirements for emergency responders are found in 29 CFR 1910.120(q).

We break down the five levels of HAZWOPER emergency responder training for employees below. This graphic guide outlines the levels of emergency responder training as well.

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.

Emergency_Responders2.jpgThe 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, are able to recognize the need for additional resources, and will 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)]

Red-Button-Blog.jpgHAZWOPER 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.

Awareness-level responders 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:

  • Hazardous substance awareness, identification, and recognition;
  • An understanding of potential emergency outcomes and risks; and
  • Their role in the Emergency Response Plan, including site security, control, and the Emergency Response Guidebook. 
The 2-hour HAZWOPER Awareness Level online course provides 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 defensivebutton.jpgfashion without trying to stop the release. Examples of defensive response actions 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:

  • Hazardous substance terminology and risk assessment;
  • Selecting and using proper personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • Performing basic control, containment and/or confinement operations; and  
  • 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.

For more details about how needs HAZWOPER training, how much training is required, and what that training must cover, see the graphic guides and FAQ available at 


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

Closing_Tank_Valve_Simulated_Spill_HAZWOPER_Class.jpgHazardous 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:
  • Incident_commander2.jpgKnow 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 Technology’s interactive OSHA safety training courses help to prepare employees to identify, respond to, and protect themselves from the hazards in your workplace.   
For more detail about the training required for emergency responders or site workers at contaminated cleanup sites, view the graphic guides linked below.

HAZWOPER Training for Emergency Responders
HAZWOPER Training for Site Cleanup Operations

Lion offers online training for most levels of emergency responders. These online coursers will help satisfy OSHA’s requirements for classroom competency content required as part of initial and refresher training.

2-Hour HAZWOPER Awareness Level
8-Hour HAZWOPER First Responder Operations Level
24-Hour HAZWOPER Emergency Response Technician Level (Initial Training)
8-Hour HAZWOPER Emergency Response Technician Level (Refresher Training)
4-Hour HAZWOPER Incident Commander Level

Do you work at a Superfund site or other uncontrolled hazardous waste site? Keep your HAZWOPER cleanup certification up to date with initial and refresher training courses available at


Tags: emergency, hazmat technician, HAZWOPER, HAZWOPER training, osha, response

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