The dumping of hazardous substances poses a significant environmental threat that can lead to serious safety and health problems. Toxic, flammable or corrosive substances can cause fires, explosions and pollution of air, water and land. Hazardous substances must be properly treated, stored or disposed of to eliminate or greatly reduce potential harm to human and animal life and the environment.
Because of the seriousness of the safety and health hazards related to hazardous waste operations and emergency response, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Standard, Title 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 1910.120 (General Industry) and 1926.65 (Construction), to protect employees and to help them handle hazardous substances safely and effectively.
OSHA’s HAZWOPER Standard applies to all general and construction industry employers and workers who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances — including hazardous waste — and who are engaged in any of the following operations:
|Work Operations||Examples of Work Activities|
|Operations at Treatment, Storage and Disposal (TSD) FacilitiesOperations involving hazardous waste conducted at TSD facilities regulated by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) or by agencies under agreement with the EPA to implement RCRA regulations.||
|Emergency Response OperationsEmergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazards||
The OSHA HAZWOPER Standard requires employers who fall under any of the above categories to implement:
- A written, readily accessible safety and health program that identifies, evaluates and controls safety and health hazards, hazard communication, emergency response and decontamination procedures;
- A preliminary site evaluation conducted by a qualified person to identify potential site hazards and to aid in the selection of appropriate employee protection methods;
- A site control program to protect employees against hazardous contamination, including a site map, site work zones, site communications, safe work practices, the use of a “buddy system” and identification of the nearest medical aid;
- Medical surveillance of workers exposed at or above permissible exposure limits for hazardous substances;
- Employee training for everyone working on a hazardous waste site.
Employee training is a key requirement of any HAZWOPER program. Employers must develop training for employees who are exposed to health hazards or hazardous substances during hazardous substance cleanup; all operations at treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities; and emergency response operations. Comprehensive training is critical to ensure that employees can perform their assigned duties and functions in a safe and healthful manner that does not endanger themselves or others.