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What is OSHA HAZWOPER? Breaking down the Basics

Muddassir Katchi

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Muddassir Katchi | October 15, 2018 | Comments Off on What is OSHA HAZWOPER? Breaking down the Basics

What is OSHA HAZWOPER? Breaking down the Basics

The American Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that exposure to harmful substances is amongst the top five causes of workplace fatalities.  This means that not only are the employees unaware about the topic, but also that employers don’t recognize the importance of educating the workforce as well.

The fact that people still lose lives to this cause despite strict state regulations suggests that training courses and modules need to be taken more seriously. It is not the lack of programs which is causing the problem; it is more about making people, especially the employers, more aware about the existence of these programs. OSHA’s HAZWOPER is one such educational program.


HAZWOPER is an acronym for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. As the name suggests, it is a course that trains employees like hospital staff and industrial workers on how to deal with hazardous waste and other harmful substances.

It trains employees as well as the employers of such workplaces regarding cleaning-up, treatment, storage, and disposal of such materials. Additionally, HAZWOPER also trains a class of workers that are capable of providing emergency services in case of any unfortunate incidents.

Who Needs HAZWOPER Training?

HAZWOPER is primarily for people who are at risk of being exposed to harmful substances. This includes all the employees, including the managerial and administrations staff, of the workplaces that handle, store, and deal with toxic substances in any way.

HAZWOPER is primarily for people who are at risk of being exposed to harmful substances. Click To Tweet

HAZWOPER identifies five different groups of employees and employers who face the risk of exposure to harmful elements. These people work in various capacities at different institutions and can potentially be at risk of coming into uncontrolled contact with contaminants. These employees’ operations are identified by 1910.120(a) (1)(i-v) and 1926.65(a)(1)(i-v), and include the following:

  • Cleaning up – Performed by government bodies, federal, state, local, or other which deal with harmful substances – at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
  • Corrective measures that include clean-up operations at locations covered under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.);
  • Clean-up operations voluntary in nature at locations that are declared hazardous waste sites by federal, state, local, or any other governmental body
  • Activities that involve the treatment, storage, and disposal of dangerous wastes conducted at facilities governed by Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 264 and 265 under RCRA, or by agencies that are in agreement with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement RCRA regulations; and
  • Operations that involve an emergency response to the release, or significant threats of the release of hazardous substances, irrespective of the location of the incident.

What is HAZWOPER Training?

Exposure to harmful substances is dangerous to health, and eventually fatal in most cases. Therefore, precautionary and safety education is a must for all the people who come in contact with or are in danger of being exposed to such materials.

HAZWOPER training educates people on critical subjects like protection against hazardous chemicals, elimination of harmful substances, workplace safety, and also about the relevant environmental OSHA regulations on chemical and waste management.

There are different types of courses, and one can decide which course to take depending on the nature of their job. The duration of the initial course will be 24-hour or 40-hour, depending on the job type, while you will also have to take an 8-hour refresher course to maintain compliance. We will discuss both courses types in detail below.


HAZWOPER 40, as the name suggests, is a 40-hour course that educates its trainees over a wide range of topics covered under the umbrella of safety and precautionary methods. It is one of the most popular courses amongst employers and their employees due to its comprehensiveness.

It is designed for all the employees that are in danger of exposure to substances that can be health hazards or those who handle toxic, flammable, or corrosive materials on a daily basis. The program covers the following topics:

  • Toxic and Waste Management
  • Workplace Safety
  • Emergency Response
  • Industry Compliance

The training aims to teach the understanding of OSHA’s purpose and its efforts in promoting occupational safety. Additionally, it will inform trainees on how they can use Site Characterization to identify potential risks and ways of dealing with them. They will also learn about using Material Safety Datasheets (MSDS) to determine hazards.

Education about how different materials, compounds, and mixtures react under different conditions is also essential to develop an understanding of how different elements behave in different environments. For instance, how fire will react in the presence of different flammable materials.

At the end of the course, trainees are to take an exam which they have to pass with a 70% grade. Once they clear the exam, they will get a signed certificate by registered health and safety personnel which they can print and use wherever required.


The 24-hour course differs from its 40-hour counterpart because it is a bit more general. Workers dealing with a hazardous substance in any capacity can take the course. Like the 40-hour course, this course educates its trainees in areas of handling, transporting, storage, and use of dangerous materials.

From workers who perform clean-up jobs at contaminated or hazardous sites to engineers, project managers, and surveyors who get exposed to even the permissible levels of harmful substances, everyone in these fields should take this course.

The online training module includes fourteen sections and also educates trainees on topics like the 2013 updates for the Global Harmonized System (GHS) system for Hazard Communications. It will teach the uses of Personal Protective Equipment and will also build a comprehensive understanding of site characterization.

Once the training is complete, the trainees will also know about OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standards and even the principles of toxicology and their behavior to chemical exposure. The trainees will receive certification when they complete their 24-hour HAZWOPER course.

Where to Get HAZWOPER Training

OSHA doesn’t directly offer HAZWOPER training and has only designed the course. The training can only be obtained from an approved training provider that has a nationwide acceptance. The good thing about these trainers is that they operate online and that you can take your training anywhere, at any time.

However, a part of the course does require you to complete onsite training. Once an employee completes this training, not only will the job market hold them in higher regard, but they will also be more capable of operating in hazardous workplaces.

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