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Over 30 million workers every year come into contact with some form of harmful substance or material. Thankfully, HAZWOPER exists to keep employees dealing with such substances safe. But what is HAZWOPER, and how does it increase safety in areas dealing with dangerous materials? 

When employers and employees come into contact with hazardous materials, they are risking their health. From breathing in toxic material to responding to chemical fires, it is important to have effective training regarding what to do in these situations. This reduces the chance of serious injury or fatalities.

To learn exactly what HAZWOPER is and why it is important for those working with hazardous materials, keep reading. 


HAZWOPER is the acronym used for “Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response.” It comprises a list of safety regulations designed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. 

HAZWOPER exists to keep people working with chemical or hazardous materials safe during their jobs. This includes safety in moving and transporting such materials, and ensuring the health of every employee is a top priority. 

HAZWOPER is also in place for the protection of those dealing with the cleaning of hazardous waste sites and the release of these substances. It is also designed for those who respond to emergencies in areas dealing with hazardous substances. 

What Are the Benefits Of This Training?

HAZWOPER training is beneficial because it keeps people safe. It prepares employees working with hazardous materials for any accidents or disasters. 

First and foremost, HAZWOPER training allows employees to plan and prepare for anything. If something accidentally happens while on the job, employees can remain calm and be ready to tackle the problem. 

This training also gives employees and employers a greater understanding of the environment they are in. Understanding why and how a particular material or substance is dangerous increases understanding of how to protect people from it. 

The development of critical thinking skills is also a priority for HAZWOPER training. These are essential for logical thinking and time management in any emergency.

Critical thinking will expand and develop during training. Anyone working in a hazardous field then knows the best course of action in any emergency. 

It is also important to note that companies that do not follow OSHA health and safety standards could receive penalties. This includes those who don’t ensure their employees have HAZWOPER training. 


The short answer is “yes.” Any person can benefit from this kind of training. It’s impossible to predict when an emergency situation may arise. Being prepared is the number one way to stay safe. 

Regardless of the quality of maintenance on any hazardous site, accidents do happen. When they do, knowing the best course of action is paramount for safety. Depending on the situation, the most appropriate response could change, so it is always best to plan for anything

Who Specifically Needs HAZWOPER Training?

Five specific groups need to be HAZWOPER trained as outlined by OSHA. Both employees and employers must receive this training if they work in these areas. These areas are: 

Clean-up Operations Covered By the RCRA

The RCRA, or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, enforces the regulation of waste products that are hazardous or may become hazardous. Using corrective action, the RCRA ensures that areas suffering due to mismanaged waste are effectively and safely cleaned. 

Government Body Clean-up Operations

The government steps in to clean up areas affected by hazardous waste. Those employed by the government to do this important work must be HAZWOPER trained. This ensures they can carry out their work safely and efficiently. 

Any kind of government, including local, state, and federal, may be involved in the clean-up of hazardous materials. Regardless, employees need training in how to respond to hazardous materials without compromising their own safety or others. 

Emergency Response Operations That Release Hazardous Waste

As emergency response units clean up hazardous waste, they also must release it or safely store it. Those involved in this line of work must have the training to ensure they do not endanger human life with the release of hazardous materials. 

Hazardous Waste Operational Services

Treatment, storage, and disposal of hazardous waste can be a dangerous line of work. Without the proper training, accidental spillages may occur, leading to environmental and health disasters. The right training will allow those working in TSD to know what to do to avoid such disasters. 

Non-TSD Facilities That Generate Hazardous Waste

Facilities that are not directly involved in the treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous waste but still produce hazardous substances should also have HAZWOPER-trained employees. This ensures that everyone on site can remain safe and respond appropriately to any accidents. 

What Areas Are Hazardous? 

There are several criteria that OSHA uses to define a hazardous substance. While some substances are dangerous, they may not necessarily be considered hazardous. 

If a substance poses a risk of death or serious injury, it is hazardous. This could include poisonous substances or corrosive chemicals.

OSHA also defines the type of environment where a hazardous substance is most likely to occur. These areas are “Imminent Danger to Life and Health” or IDLH environments.

These areas are a risk to anyone who steps foot in them. Those that do must have the proper training.

An area that is sufficiently low in oxygen is also considered a hazardous area. These are environments high above or low underground. They may also be specially designed units that have purposely been deprived of oxygen. 

An environment that is at potential risk of explosion or fire is hazardous. Those that enter these spaces must have HAZWOPER training. 

Finally, areas that have been exposed to a high concentration of a toxic substance are hazardous. This may be the result of spillage or mismanaged waste. Regardless, those that enter these areas must have HAZWOPER training. 

Where Does the Training Take Place? 

HAZWOPER training is available in person or online. Both have advantages and disadvantages. An employee will decide with their employer which kind of training they feel is right for them. 

In person training is a good option for those who want someone else to lead their learning. Having a dedicated and expert teacher present can help to keep an employee’s focus during training. It also makes questions easy to ask.

However, in-person training may require the employee to travel to the classroom. This might be inconvenient if the location is far away.

Online training is very location-convenient as employees can learn from anywhere. This generally means training can be completed more quickly.

However, online training means the employee is largely in control of their learning. They must make sure they cover every area they need to throughout training. They also must ensure they have an accurate understanding of all the areas that need to be covered. 

What Areas Will Be Covered During Training?

Many different areas are important during HAZWOPER training. The program is very thorough and designed to be useful to all employees working in hazard management. Safety in the workplace is the number one priority of all the different kinds of HAZWOPER training. 

40 Hour Course

The initial 40-hour courses, which most employees start with, cover everything safety-related. This course is designed to start an employee off in the world of hazardous material safety, so it is very extensive in the knowledge it covers. 

Firstly, employees will learn about OSHA. Knowing about the body proving the training will help them to understand why they need this training. 

Another area covered in the 40-hour course is falling. This includes fall hazards and fall protection. Falls can result in the spilling of hazardous material, so it is important to be aware of the dangers in this area. 

Electrocution and fire protection are also covered in the 40-hour course. These are dangers in every workplace, so they must be carefully understood. 

The types of hazards an employee may come across are also covered in this course. Some of these are difficult to spot, making them even more dangerous. 

These are just some of the areas covered in the 40-hour initial course. The course is detailed and accurate, so it is the perfect beginner to HAZWOPER training. 

24 Hour Course

The 24-hour course is generally used as a refresher or top-up course. It is designed for those who have already undertaken the 40-hour course.

This course also covers types of hazards, though it may be in less detail than the 40-hour course. 

Hazardous waste in confined spaces is another area this course focuses on. Being in a confined space with a hazardous substance can cause panic. However, knowing how to approach this situation is the best way to be prepared for it. 

An important area covered on the 24-hour course is respirators. This breathing equipment protects people from hazardous material, but only when it is worn correctly. 

Employers and employees who take the 24-hour course will learn about site emergencies. These may occur due to accidental spillage or mismanaged material. Planning and being prepared for these emergencies is the number one way to prevent injury and death during them. 

Like the 40-hour course, falls and fall protection are also covered in this shorter course. This is an essential part of safety workplace training. 

8 Hour Course

The 8-hour course is also a refresher course. It is useful for those who have a few years of experience in HAZWOPER training and simply require a knowledge top-up. 

This course offers education in the detection of hazardous materials. This is particularly important for those who deal with hazardous substance control. Some signs of hazardous material are subtle, so it is important to have an awareness of them. 

Decontamination is also offered as a subject in the 8-hour course. This includes decontamination of a site and a person. PPE and how to use it appropriately are covered as part of the decontamination topic. 

Site safety planning is covered in the 8-hour course. This is particularly useful to employers who have the final say in how to approach a hazardous site. Site planning is exceptionally important to reduce injury and fatalities. 

All three courses will cover hazard communication. Employers must be open about hazardous material on their sites or in workplaces. This is to make sure everyone on site knows what kind of materials they are near, as this allows them to better protect themselves and others. 

Is Refresher Training An Option? 

Refresher training is very important when it comes to HAZWOPER. Training is continuously updated to meet new industry standards. That’s what makes continued education of HAZWOPER so useful. 

Most refresher courses happen within twelve months of the last course an employee has taken. This is frequently done to keep information and training fresh. It also means that any new guidelines or training methods are quickly understood.

HAZWOPER refresher courses generally only take 24 hours collectively. They simply top-up pre-existing knowledge from the initial HAZWOPER training course. If an employee wishes to take a refresher course more regularly, they should discuss this with their employer. 

Employers will let employees know when it is time to take their refresher course. 

HAZWOPER Exists to Keep You and Your Employees Safe

So, what is HAZWOPER? HAZWOPER is an OSHA-approved training initiative. It keeps employers and employees working with hazardous materials safe and alert.

Certain areas require HAZWOPER training. This is due to the type of environment work is being performed in or due to the nature of the substances. HAZWOPER training improves critical thinking, so that response times are faster. 

To learn more about workplace safety and HazMat training, have a look at this page. From safety training to apps to make your workplace less hazardous, you’ll find everything you need. Contact the team of safety specialists if you have any questions.