America’s largest retail store was recently fined $81 million for improper handling of hazardous wastes and pesticides. The chain did not have a store level safety program in place to train its employees on proper hazardous waste management and disposal practices. As a result, hazardous wastes were transported without proper documentation or improperly discarded, including being put into municipal trash bins or poured into the local sewer system.
From manufacturing facilities to store fronts, hazardous substances can be found in an array of company locations. Facility safety training should incorporate processes and procedures applicable to hazardous material interactions and disposal. Unless handled by training individuals and disposed of properly, hazardous material can create health risks for people and damage the environment.
If a site houses hazardous material, HAZWOPER training may be necessary. The Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) applies to specific groups of employers and their employees. Employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, are required to obtain -Online Training.
There are various Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) training levels of HAZWOPER that are commensurate with the type of work and the potential involvement with hazardous materials. The following two levels of HAZWOPER training apply to employees that will not assume the aggressive role of attempting to plug, patch, or otherwise stop the release of a hazardous substance.
According to OSHA, the first responders at the “awareness level” must demonstrate competency in areas such as recognizing the presence of hazardous materials in an emergency, the risks involved, and the role they play in their employer’s plan.
This level is applicable for persons who, in the course of their normal duties, could be the first on the scene of an emergency involving hazardous materials. Responders at the awareness level are expected to recognize the presence of hazardous materials, protect themselves, call for trained personnel, and secure the area without engagement.
Individual companies can set their own hourly training requirements, however, employees must be capable of demonstrating the following:
- Understanding what a hazardous substance is, and associated risks
- Understanding potential outcomes associated with an emergency involving hazardous substances
- Ability to recognize the presence of hazardous substances during an emergency
- Ability to identify the hazardous substances, if possible
- Understanding the role of the first responder awareness individual in the employer's emergency response plan, including site security and control and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Emergency Response Guidebook
- Ability to recognize the need to make appropriate notifications for additional resources
Operations level responders meet and exceed the competency level of the awareness responder. Operational responders are trained to respond in a defensive fashion without actually trying to terminate the release. Their function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures.
These trained responders are part of the initial response to the incident for the purpose of protecting nearby persons, the environment, and/or property from the effects of the release. Operations may receive additional training in HAZMAT/CBRNE defensive techniques of absorption, damming and diking, diverting, retention, vapor dispersion and suppression. They may also train in basic decontamination procedures and PPE.
First responders at the operational level should complete the 8-hour HAZWOPER training course or sufficient experience to objectively demonstrate competency in the following areas:
- Basic hazard and risk assessment techniques
- Selection and use of proper personal protective equipment provided to the first responder operational level
- Basic hazardous materials terms
- Basic control, containment and/or confinement operations within the capabilities of available resources and personal protective equipment
- Implementation of basic decontamination procedures
- Relevant standard operating and termination procedures