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Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response: What is HAZWOPER and Who Needs HAZWOPER Training?

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Hazardous Waste Operations & Emergency Response: What is HAZWOPER and Who Needs HAZWOPER Training?

HAZWOPER is a set of regulations developed by OSHA to ensure the health and safety of employees working with or exposed to hazardous substances. The standard requires HAZWOPER training for employees and supervisors alike who are involved in handling hazardous waste. These include those performing cleanup, corrective actions, and emergency response operations. Keep on reading to learn more about the purpose of HAZWOPER and HAZWOPER training.

RPF Environmental has certified professionals in the New England region and beyond that offer OSHA HAZWOPER training including other environmental health and safety training programs along with hazardous material surveys. Contact us now for more information!

HAZWOPER Definition

The HAZWOPER standard consists of operational procedures and practices regarding proper and safe handling, transportation, storage, cleanup, and disposal of hazardous wastes. It aims to regulate the activities and operations of employees working in hazardous waste sites to protect them while they’re doing their job. Thus, minimizing and preventing the occurrence of serious injuries and health complications caused by exposure to toxic substances.

What Does HAZWOPER Stand For?

HAZWOPER stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response

Definition of Hazardous Waste

“A hazardous waste is a waste with properties that make it dangerous or capable of having a harmful effect on human health or the environment.” ~EPA

Hazardous waste can come in solid, liquid, or gas form and can be generated by industrial manufacturing processes, disposal sites, laboratories, and others. According to EPA, they can also be toxic, reactive, corrosive, or ignitable. Their removal and disposal are regulated by federal and state laws.

Examples of hazardous waste include:

  • Batteries
  • Chemicals
  • Pesticides
  • Paints
  • Wastewater treatment sludges, etc.

In addition, below are hazardous substances and conditions where HAZWOPER standards apply according to OSHA:

  • High concentrations of toxic substances
  • Injury or life-threatening situations
  • IDLH environments
  • Situations requiring immediate attention due to the danger posed to workers in the area
  • Situations requiring evacuation
  • Conditions posing fire or explosion hazards
  • Situations presenting an oxygen-deficient atmosphere

Which Agency Defines HAZWOPER Standards?

HAZWOPER was implemented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They aim to regulate hazardous waste activities and emergency response operations in the U.S.

Key HAZWOPER Standard Elements: What is Covered in the HAZWOPER Standards?

Key HAZWOPER Standard Elements: What is Covered in the HAZWOPER Standards?

The standards for HAZWOPER were covered under 29 CFR 1910.120 for the general industry and under 29 CFR 1926.65 for the construction industry. But OSHA referenced the HAZWOPER standard as 29 CFR 1910.120 in general because the two standards are identical.

Below is a summary of the key employer requirements under HAZWOPER:

  • Developing and implementing a safety and health plan
  • Site analysis and control
  • Training for employees, site managers, and supervisors
  • Medical surveillance of workers
  • Controlling hazards based on the hierarchy of controls
  • Monitoring the site’s conditions
  • Informational programs before any work begins at the site
  • Proper handling of containers and drums
  • Decontamination procedures
  • Illumination
  • Providing appropriate sanitation at temporary workplaces
  • Developing and implementing new technology programs to improve worker protection
  • Emergency response plans
  • Hazard communication programs

What Is HAZWOPER Training & Who Are Covered by the Standard?

What Is HAZWOPER Training & Who Are Covered by the Standard?

HAZWOPER training for employees is part of the standard. This educational course includes training on hazardous materials used in various industries like the manufacturing industry. One of the main purposes of HAZWOPER training is to reduce workplace incidents by training employees how to properly work around hazardous waste, especially in unintentional situations.

Employees and employers who are covered by the HAZWOPER training requirements should complete one HAZWOPER course depending on the nature of their work. After completing the training, you get a HAZWOPER certificate which ensures compliance with OSHA regulations.

HAZWOPER Training Requirements

For you to be certified, you should pass a HAZWOPER course that covers all of the OSHA-recommended procedures. 

Workers Who Need HAZWOPER Training

Anyone who will be working with or exposed to hazardous substances at uncontrolled waste sites should be given HAZWOPER training. These include employees, site managers, and supervisors, regardless if they are temporary or permanent employees. OSHA has listed five major groups of employees and employers who are required to take HAZWOPER training. These are those who are involved in the following operations which may be required by local, federal, state, or other governmental bodies:

  • Clean-up operations
  • Voluntary clean-up operations at recognized uncontrolled hazardous waste sites
  • Corrective actions
  • Treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes
  • Emergency response operations

Moreover, HAZWOPER training also covers employees who are not working with hazardous waste directly but work in facilities where hazardous waste is being handled.

Common Job Roles that Need HAZWOPER Training
  • General laborers
  • General site workers
  • Equipment operators
  • Safety managers
  • Maintenance and repair staff
  • Hazardous materials technicians and specialists
  • Engineers
  • Geographic surveyors
  • On-site supervisors

Which HAZWOPER Course Do You Need?

The type and duration of training you will need will depend on the following:

  • Your roles and responsibilities
  • The type of hazardous waste you are dealing with
  • The level of exposure
  • Your previous safety training experience

There are three types of HAZWOPER training:

40-Hour HAZWOPER Training

Also referred to as HAZWOPER 40, this is for full-time employees who are just starting their work at hazardous waste sites and is the first training you should take.

24-Hour HAZWOPER Training

This is typically for part-time site workers or emergency response teams along with individuals who are exposed to minimal levels of hazardous substances.

8-Hour HAZWOPER Training

This is a refresher course that should be taken annually by those who already have a HAZWOPER certificate to freshen up their skills. Initial HAZWOPER certifications are only valid for one year and you need to take the refresher course to maintain your HAZWOPER certification.

NOTE: Always check OSHA’s requirements based on your job to make sure that you are taking the right course.

Also Read: HAZWOPER Levels of Training

What Topics Does HAZWOPER Training Cover?

Below are some of the topics that might be covered in a HAZWOPER training:

  • Overview of regulations
  • Toxicology
  • Physical and chemical hazards
  • Site characterization
  • Identification systems
  • Hazard recognition
  • Respiratory protection
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Decontamination practices & managing emergencies
  • Emergency procedures
  • Medical surveillance
  • Site safety plans
  • Confined spaces
  • General health & safety plan guidelines
  • Chemical awareness
  • Air monitoring
  • Excavations

How Do You Become HAZWOPER-Certified?

You can complete your HAZWOPER training through online courses according to your own schedule. There are courses offered that can be taken individually or in groups.

What Is the Difference Between HAZWOPER and Hazmat Training?

What Is the Difference Between HAZWOPER and Hazmat Training?
  • HAZWOPER – A set of regulations implemented by OSHA for the proper treatment, transportation, storage, clean-up, and disposal of hazardous substances.
  • HAZMAT – Acronym for Hazardous Materials, HAZMAT relates to safely managing hazardous materials before, during, and after transportation. This regulation also falls under the Department of Transportation.

Read more on our discussion about HAZWOPER vs. HAZMAT here.


What is the purpose of HAZWOPER?

According to OSHA:
HAZWOPER aims to prevent and minimize the possibility of worker injury and illness resulting from potential exposures to hazardous substances.”

What does it mean to be HAZWOPER certified?

Being HAZWOPER-certified means you are complying with OSHA’s regulations regarding proper and safe handling of potentially hazardous substances. You will be equipped with the essential knowledge to avoid fatalities caused by exposure as well as reduce critical mistakes. You can also avoid penalties and can save on injury-related costs.

Is OSHA 40 the same as HAZWOPER?

No. OSHA 40 training does not exist in the first place. However, there are OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 courses that cover general safety and health hazard trainings. Though OSHA 30 is more in-depth, it is still different from HAZWOPER. But when you hear someone mentioning OSHA 40, they may be referring to the 40-hour HAZWOPER training.

Can you fail a HAZWOPER?

You can fail a HAZWOPER final exam, but certified professionals offering HAZWOPER training often allow you to retake the exam as many times as you need to pass.


HAZWOPER training is required for employees and employers alike who are exposed to hazardous substances to minimize costly workplace injuries and fatalities as well as prevent violations. It is part of OSHA compliance and you can be certified through online HAZWOPER training.

Contact RPF Environmental for affordable environmental health and safety training programs including OSHA HAZWOPER training in Boston, New Hampshire, Maine, and across the U.S. We also offer hazardous material surveys. Book an appointment now!

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