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HAZWOPER and Hazardous Materials

Posted on Tue, Nov 09, 2010

As part of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was directed to establish programs to protect hazardous waste workers. The result of this effort was termed the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard or, as more commonly known, HAZWOPER (29 CFR 1910.120).

OSHA considers HAZWOPER to have a broad coverage in emergency response. The intent of the HAZWOPER standard is to protect workers engaged in "Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard." (29 CFR 1910.120(a)(1)(v)). It applies to all employers who have their employees respond to an emergency situation where a hazardous substance may exist. This response requires all covered workers to comply with the OSHA HAZWOPER rules.

It is possible for some potentially harmful substances to be technically excluded from the definitions of Hazardous Materials of Substances. It should be noted that the HAZWOPER response standard is NOT limited or restricted to OSHA's list of "highly hazardous chemicals" under the PSM standard, the EPA's list of "Extremely Hazardous Substances" (EHS), or substances listed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) as a hazardous material.

  • Hazardous Materials is a general term intended to mean hazardous substances, pollutants, and contaminants as defined by the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP). The term includes blood borne pathogens and infectious disease as defined by OSHA's Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (29 CFR 1910.1030).

Hazardous Substance is a term that is designated by numerous agencies.

  • Any substance designated pursuant to section 311(b)(2)(A) of the Clean Water Act
  • Any element, compound, mixture, solution, or substance designated pursuant to section 102 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
  • Any hazardous waste having the characteristics identified under or listed pursuant to section 3001 of the Solid Waste Disposal Act   (but not including any waste under the Solid Waste Disposal Act (42 U.S.C. § 6901 et seq.) that has been suspended by act of Congress)
  • Any toxic pollutant listed under section 307(a) of the Clean Water Act; any hazardous air pollutant listed under section 112 of the Clean Air Act (42 U.S.C. § 7521 et seq.)
  • Any imminently hazardous chemical substance or mixture with respect to which the EPA Administrator has taken action pursuant to section 7 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (15 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.).

These general mandates are not limited to a finite list of chemicals or established thresholds, but apply to all chemicals stored at a facility regardless of whether the stored amount is less than the published threshold quantity. Again, the overall intent of the general standard mandates is to proactively manage potential risk and impact to the environment, and assure the safety and health of all workers and potentially affected communities. 

For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download our Best Practices for Crisis Management.

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Tags: Emergency Preparedness, Emergency Management Program, HAZWOPER, OSHA HAZWOPER standard training