What Is HAZWOPER Training?

What is HAZWOPER Training?

The Camp Fire in Butte County destroyed or damaged over 14,700 parcels containing structures.  These structures are on mostly private property that either require individual property owners to sign a Right of Entry form or will go through an abatement process for CalRecycle and its Contractors to perform debris removal operations. These contractors will be required to have current HAZWOPER training.  HAZWOPER is an acronym which stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response.

Wildfire debris removal programs are implemented under the leadership of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) and local governments.  The state-managed debris removal program has two phases: removal of household hazardous waste and removal of other fire-related debris.

All site personnel who are tasked to enter an exclusion zone and Superintendents shall be currently certified for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER).   All staff conducting work in and around the debris removal cleanup and disposal operations shall be 40-hour HAZWOPER Trained and Certified and their certification shall be and remain current while working as part of the Debris Cleanup Team.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the HAZWOPER standard applies to five groups of employers and their employees and specifically includes any employees who are exposed to hazardous substances and who are engaged in several operations including clean-up, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. In addition, workers involved in an emergency response operation dealing with hazardous waste and workers who have to perform duties at a waste site where hazardous contamination are equally expected to be fully trained and protected.

For further clarification, an interpretation letter provided by OSHA gives some guidance as to what constitutes a hazardous substance or situation:

  • High concentrations of toxic substances.
  • Situation that is life or injury threatening.
  • Imminent Danger to Life and Health (IDLH) environments.
  • Situation that presents an oxygen deficient atmosphere.
  • Condition that poses a fire or explosion hazard.
  • Situation that required an evacuation of the area.
  • A situation that requires immediate attention because of the danger posed to employees in the area.

Employees and employers covered by the OSHA HAZWOPER standard are required to take the initial HAZWOPER training which consists of a 24 or 40-hour course. Depending on your job type and experience, you may be able to take the 24-hour course to meet your HAZWOPER training requirement.

Every year after the initial training requirement has been met, workers are required to take an 8-hour HAZWOPER refresher course. This refresher course is designed to meet the annual training requirement for hazardous waste operations and emergency response workers.

Bryan May

Bryan May is a Public Information Officer for the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Prior to joining Cal OES in 2017, Bryan spent 30 years as an Emmy award winning television anchor and reporter.

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