OSHA Image Banner
Standards Interpretation and Compliance Letters

Clarification On HAZWOPER Emergency Response Training Requirements

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. OSHA's interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that their enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time they update their guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

November 8, 1994

Robin Morecroft, P.E.
Manager, Operations
Engineering Mission Operation and Maintenance, Inc.
Suite 300 1
2500 Fair Lakes Circle
Fairfax, Virginia 22033

Dear Mr. Morecroft:

Thank you for your letter of May 10, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) regulation, 29 CFR 1910.120.

You request clarification on HAZWOPER emergency response training requirements. It appears from your letter that your workers will only be trained to the First Responder Operations Level. The function of the First Responder Operations Level is to take defensive action to contain an uncontrolled release, acting at a safe distance from the point of release. Defensive activities include placing of sorbent, shutting off valves outside the danger area, or activating emergency control systems. The standard does not allow Operations Level First Responders to actually enter the danger area to attempt to stop a release. Therefore, if you choose not to train your people beyond the First Responder Operations Level, you must arrange in advance to call in an outside HAZMAT team in the event your employees are unable to control a release through the use of defensive action.

We will now address your specific questions.

1) Our operating personnel are trained to the level of First Responder Operations. Is it a requirement that one individual on each shift be trained as an "Incident Commander" or would it suffice for plant management, called out to the plant, to be trained as the incident commander?

The second part of this question is this. If there is an "Incident Commander" on the scene, either from the shift or a plant supervisor called in, and the Plant Manager or some other senior manager arrives on site, must he be "Incident Commander" trained or can he defer to the individual who is trained and handling the situation?

There must be someone on-site designated and trained to be in charge of the incident, HAZWOPER describes this individual as the Senior Official. It is not acceptable to designate and train the plant manager or supervise as the Senior Official if this person needs to be called in from off-site.

Your facility emergency response plan must detail the procedures to be followed, roles and duties of responders, and lines of authority and communication. All activity must be coordinated through the Incident Command System, which specifies that one individual be in charge of coordinating and supervising emergency response efforts. The Incident Command System is to include a preestablished chain of command, in which control of the incident is passed up the chain of command as more senior officers arrive. For example, in the event it is necessary to call in the outside HAZMAT team, your Senior Official would turn over control of the incident to the head of the outside HAZMAT team.

You must specify in advance whether you intend for the on-site Senior Official to turn over control of the incident to the plant supervisor or manager who arrives from off-site. OSHA would not require that your senior managers who arrive from off-site take over control of the incident. However, whoever serves the role of Senior Official must have full authority to coordinate and supervise emergency response activities. Off-site senior managers would not need to be trained to head up the incident response if they truly defer to the on-site Senior Official.

It may be of interest to you that, since your Senior Official is coordinating and supervising first response only, the full training of the On-Scene Incident Commander may not be needed. The Senior Official (both on-site and, if you so decide, your off-site plant managers) must be trained based on the duties and function to be performed The type and extent of training would depend on the facility and the complexity of defensive emergency prevention measures. In situations where it is necessary to call in the outside HAZMAT team, the role of Senior Official would be passed up the preestablished lines of authority to the head of the outside HAZMAT team. The head of the HAZMAT team must be certified as an On-Scene Incident Commander as described in 29 CFR 1910.120(q)(6)(v).

2) The regulations state that the Hazardous Materials Specialist: ... would also act as a liaison with Federal, state, local and other government authorities in regards to site activities... Does this mean we must have a Hazardous Materials Specialist on each shift to Provide this liaison or can our First Responder Operations-trained individuals or our "Incident Commander" provide this liaison?

You are not required to have a Hazardous Materials Specialist on your response team. However, the role of liaison with government authorities should be designated in your emergency response plan. You should coordinate in advance with local emergency planning authorities to determine what information needs to be reported to them in the event of an incident. It would be the responsibility of the Senior Official (described in response to your first question) to determine whether outside assistance is needed. Your emergency response plan must define what scenarios your plant can and can not handle without the aid of an outside hazmat team, and your workers, particularly the Senior Official, must be trained to understand the limits of their response capabilities.

3) After the completion of the emergency response phase of an incident, a contractor would normally be hired to provide the clean-up and disposal services. Is it necessary for our plant management to be trained as "On-Site Management and Supervisors" if their involvement is telling the contractor to "clean up the problem?"

These management personnel would be responsible for arranging the contract, monitoring contract expenditures and monitoring procedures followed by the contractor to insure general compliance with OSHA and other regulations. They might go to the site of the incident simply as an observer. They would have previously received First Responder Operations level training.

The On-Site Management and Supervisory training to which you refer is intended for on-site management personnel who are directly responsible for clean-up operations. Contract management personnel who simply instruct the contractor to "clean up the problem" would not require this level of training.

However, access to contaminated areas of clean-up operations is generally limited to personnel who are certified under paragraph (e) of the standard. First Responder Operations Level Training would not be applicable because clean-up by outside contractors is regulated separately from emergency response activities. Clean-up operations are regulated under paragraphs (b) through (o) of HAZWOPER. Clean-up workers must have 24 or 40 hours of training as specified in paragraph (e)(3). This training is a prerequisite to the training specified in (e)(4) for on-site management and supervisors.

Regarding your concerns about monitoring compliance with OSHA regulations, the standard requires that there be a "Site Safety and Health Supervisor" for all clean-up operations, who has the authority and knowledge necessary to implement the site safety and health plan and verify compliance with applicable safety and health requirements.

You should ensure that any clean-up contractor you hire has a qualified Safety and Health Supervisor and will be able to comply with the other safety and health requirements for clean-up operations, and may wish to specify this in your contractual agreement.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact the Office of Health Compliance Assistance at (202) 219-8036.


Patricia Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs

More information on "Letters of Interpretations" can be found on OSHA's Website at www.osha.gov