HAZWOPER, whose acronym stands for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, is an evolved set of guidelines that is produced and maintained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). As part of the U.S. Department of Labor, the organization is responsible for regulating hazardous waste operations and emergency services from inception to disposal.

HAZWOPER applies to five distinct groups of employers and their employees.  The regulations are laid out in 29 CFR 1910.12 (for general industry) and 29 CFR 1926.65 (for the construction industry). It includes any employees who are exposed or potentially exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, and who are engaged in one of the following operations:

  • Clean-up operations, required by a governmental body, whether federal, state, local or other involving hazardous substances, that are conducted at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites;


  • Corrective actions involving clean-up operation at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq);


  • Voluntary clean-up operations at sites recognized by federal, state, local or other governmental body as uncontrolled hazardous waste sites;


  • Operations involving hazardous wastes that are conducted at treatment, storage and disposal facilities regulated by Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA, or by agencies under agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to implement RCRA regulations;


  • Emergency response operations for releases of or substantial threats of releases of hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard.


The manual that is most used for HAZWOPER activities is the Department of Health and Human Services Publication 85-115: Occupational Safety and Health Guidance Manual for Hazardous Waste Site Activities. The manual is written for government contractors and first responders.


Hazardous waste, as defined by the standard is a waste (or combination of wastes) according to 40 CFR 261.3 or substances defined as hazardous wastes in 49 CFR 171.8.



HAZWOPER, as an acronym, predates OSHA. Its relevance dates back to World War II when waste accumulated during construction of the atomic bomb at the Hanford site.  Its prominence increases over the years. High-profile environmental accidents such as the Love Canal event in 1978 and the attempted Valley of the Drums cleanup the next year, gave momentum to federal legislation. Initially, two large programs were implemented to deal with hazardous waste. CERCLA (Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act), otherwise known as the Superfund of 1980 and the RCRA (Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976) became the precursors of regulations to come. CERCLA was designed to deal with existing waste sites and RCRA addressed newly generated sites.  HAZWOPER as an acronym came about from the Department of Defense’s Hazardous Waste Operations (HAZWOP), implemented on military bases slated for the disposal of waste materials left on site after World War II. The Hanford atomic bomb site ended its production in 1989 and work shifted to the clean-up portion of the site that was contaminated with radioactive material and chemicals.  OSHA creates HAZWOPER with input from the Coast Guard,  the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The combined agency effort eventually produced the Hazardous Waste Operation and Emergency Response Guidance Manual in 1984. In March of 1990, OSHA published Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (29 CFR 1920.120) which became the HAZWOPER standard codifying the health and safety requirements that companies must meet to perform hazardous-waste clean-up or respond to emergencies.



OSHA recognizes distinct training levels based on the work that the employee performs and the degree of hazard encountered. Each level requires a training program that addresses OSHA-specified topics and minimum training times.


  • General site workers initially require 40 hours of instruction, three days of supervised hands-on training and eight hours of refresher training annually.


  • Workers limited to a specific task, or workers on fully characterized sites with no hazards above acceptable levels, require 24 hours of initial training, one-day of supervised hands-on training and eight hours of refresher training annually.


  • Managers and supervisors require the same level of training as those they supervise, plus eight hours.


  • Workers at a treatment, storage or disposal facility, handling RCRA waste, require 24 hours of initial training, best practice two days of supervised hands-on training and eight hours of refresher training annually (see 29 CFR 1910.120(p)(8)(iii)(B).


  • The First Responder Awareness Level requires sufficient training to demonstrate competence in assigned duties.


  • The First Responder Operations Level requires Awareness-Level training, plus eight hours.


  • Hazardous Materials Technicians require 24 hours training plus additional training to achieve competence in specialized areas.


  • Hazardous Materials Specialists require 24 hours training at the Technician level, plus additional specialized training.


  • On-scene Incident Commanders require 24 hours training plus additional training to achieve competence in designated areas.




HAZWOPER 40-Hour Training Online – This course is suggested for those employees that may be exposed (or potentially exposed) to hazardous wastes and substances at work. It is especially indicated for emergency responders or if your job is to clean, store, dispose or treat hazardous material.


The HAZWOPER 40-Hour Training Online Course includes a variety of topics that relate to hazardous waste operation and emergency response including site characterization, hazardous chemicals, radiation hazards, personal protective equipment (PPE) and decontamination.  It also goes over best practices for safety handing and responding to emergencies that involved hazardous waste. (29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3) standards).


HAZWOPER 24-Hour Training Online – This course is suggested for those employees hat work with or near hazardous materials under permissible exposure limits (PELs). Note that if you work with PELS  ABOVE exposure limits, you should take the above HAZWOPER 40-Hour Training Online course.


The HAZWOPER 24-Hour Training Online Course will instruct you on how to protect yourself and stay safe in situations where you have limited exposure to hazardous substances. You’ll receive a thorough exposure to the OSHA standard published in 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3).


HAZWOPER 8-Hour Annual Refresher Training Online – In most all cases, employees that have any possible exposure to hazardous waste, must take one of the two above courses for their initial training. However, each year, OSHA mandates those employees to take a refresher course in order to review important concepts and learn about any updates.


The HAZWOPER 8-Hour Annual Refresher Training Online Course is designed to meet those mandatory requirements for employees involved in hazardous material handing or exposure. The course review all the materials required by the OSHA standard published in 29 CFR 1910.120. You will get an overview of topics related to hazardous material exposure and handling such as  personal protective equipment (PPE), decontamination, confined space entry, medical surveillance and standard emergency procedures. You’ll also review your knowledge on learning how to identify hazards in your working environment to be sure that you’re prepared to respond to any dangerous conditions.  The course also review essential information on how to properly handle and dispose of hazardous waste.


Note that you do NOT have to have taken the HAZWOPER 40-Hour Training or the HAZWOPER 24-Hour Training to take the HAZWOPER 8-Hour refresher. Talk to your supervisor or manager regarding the need for your to obtain your training based on OSHA guidelines for your particular job responsibilities.



While most employees will have to have some level of hands-on training to complete their certification, the benefits of HAZWOPER Online Training is substantial. The material in the on-line course is exactly the same as if you were to take it in a live classroom setting. The material is taught by OSHA-Approved Instructors who guide you through every aspect of the course. But there is much more to consider. An online course setting allows you to take the course in a comfortable setting, at home or at work or anywhere you can have access to a computer!  They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so they fit your schedule a bit easier. You can ask questions of your instructor and receive feedback, just as in a live class. At the end of your course, you’ll receive a certificate of completion that testifies to your mastery of the content.



Companies may choose to educate employees on site instead of using the on-line method. There are advantages for this method, in that discounts are available for class sizes of three or more. Expenses can be reduced, and the hands-on training can be tacked on to complete the HAZWOPER education. In addition, instructors can incorporate your company’s policies and procedures into the curriculum while teaching. All on-site classes are taught by OSHA-Approved instructors. Contact our training coordinators to explore schedules and discounts for providing the HAZWOPER 40-Hour Training, the HAZWOPER 24-Hour Training or the HAZWOPER 8-Hour Annual Refresher Training.




Risk Management Services has been serving the safety and risk-management industry for over 40 years. Their longevity speaks to the quality of their instruction and the level of detail in all of their safety instruction courses. Consultants are degreed safety professionals with decades of experience in instruction, on-site mock OSHA inspections, industrial hygiene surveys and litigation support.  Contact RMS today for any of your safety or risk-management needs.