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Standards Interpretation and Compliance Letters

Hazwoper Minimum Training For An On Scene Incident Commander

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.

December 24, 1991

Mr. Joe H. Boothe
Environmental & Safety Services, Inc.
Post Office Box 7305
Department 141
Kansas City, Missouri 64116

Dear Mr. Boothe:

This is in response to your inquiry of November 18, concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response final rule (HAZWOPER), 29 CFR 1910.120.

Your question concerns the number of minimum training hours an On Scene Incident Commander must obtain before getting certified. You have perceptively pointed out that OSHA requires "...at least 24 hours of training equal to the first responder operations level and in addition have competency in the following areas...," but the minimum training hours that First Responder Operations Level must acquire is only 8.

The intent of the standard is to provide an incident command system that is headed up by a single person who does not necessarily have extensive knowledge about the classification and verification of hazardous materials, but rather who is able to manage emergencies of differing severity, as well as oversee the rest of the HAZMAT team. Appendix C explains: "This enable[s] one individual to be in charge of managing the incident, rather than having several officers from different companies making separate, and sometimes conflicting, decisions. The individual in charge of the [incident command system] would delegate responsibility for performing various tasks..." Consequently, the Incident Commander requires more extensive training in general matters, plus extensive training in command and management.

Hence, the Incident Commander will require more than 24 hours of total training. The training hours suggested in the standard are minimums; we often find that people developing training programs must go over the minimum 8, 24, or 40 hours to properly instruct employees on all of the required subjects.

We hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact us at (202) 523-8036.


Patricia Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs

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