Who needs HAZWOPER training?
HAZWOPER (Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response) is OSHA's standard regulating the protection of workers whose job involves responding to chemical contamination and emergencies or handling clean-up operations following these emergencies. So, you might think that anyone who works with hazardous chemicals needs to be HAZWOPER certified. That's a common misunderstanding, and it leads many employers and safety managers to give HAZWOPER training to employees who don't need it.
It's important to note that HAZWOPER concerns only uncontrolled chemical hazards. Those are chemical hazards whose risks haven't been managed by various safety measures. So, the chemicals kept under secure locations and conditions in science labs are controlled hazards—those chemicals still pose risks, but there are measures in place to minimize them. A chemical spill from a burst pipeline, on the other hand, is an uncontrolled hazard (to learn more about the distinction, see Hazards vs Dangers: Do You Know the Difference?).
So, only employees that you can reasonably foresee will deal with uncontrolled chemical hazards need HAZWOPER training. That includes any worker whose work duties involve:
- Exposure to high concentrations of poisonous substances
- Exposure to chemical conditions that pose a fire or explosion hazard
- Entering sites with atmospheres at or above IDLH levels
- Exposure to oxygen-deficient atmospheres
- Leading evacuations in the event of chemical atmospheres or oxygen-deficient conditions
- Entering confined spaces (find out more about Working in Confined Spaces)
- Supervising workers who are exposed to any of these dangers
These conditions are mostly relevant to three kinds of workers: uncontrolled waste site operators; treatment, storage, and disposal facility personnel; and emergency responders.
If your employees fall into one of these three categories, you need to ensure that they receive HAZWOPER training and that it is up to date (refresher training is required annually). But if all or some of your employees work only with controlled chemical hazards, they don't need the training and you can focus your safety efforts elsewhere.
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