What Is HAZWOPER and How To Get Trained?


HAZWOPER stands for the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard. HAZWOPER is a set of federal standards that applies to HAZMAT teams in the USA during hazardous substance emergencies and HAZMAT site clean-up.

HAZWOPER was created by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to ensure HAZMAT workers are aware of the risks involved with hazardous materials and have the skills necessary to react accordingly. HAZWOPER applies only to hazardous substances, not radioactive material.

The HAZWOPER training program is a federal effort to protect workers from hazardous materials. HAZMAT, or hazardous materials, are chemical or other compounds that have the potential to cause harm if not used properly. HAZWOPER training courses cover all aspects of working safely with hazardous materials

Where Does HAZWOPER Apply?

HAZWOPER standards always apply where there is HAZMAT-related exposure or handling required.

HAZWOPER training is required if you are part of a HAZMAT team at any level, including management.

There are a wide variety of situations where HAZWOPER applies such as:

  • Excavation operations involving chemical, air quality or poison hazards, such as contaminated buildings, mines or other locations to save lives and prevent serious inury.
  • HAZMAT removal operations in an emergency after a release of hazardous material has occurred, such as a tanker truck rollover, oil spill or warehouse fire.
  • HAZMAT decontamination and repair activities after a major accident involving HAZMAT spills or an accidental HAZMAT release.
  • Any hazardous waste facility. This means:
    • Any building, structure, installation, equipment, pipe or pipeline (including any pipe into a sewer or publicly owned treatment works), well, pit, pond, lagoon, impoundment, ditch, storage container, motor vehicle, rolling stock, or aircraft
    • Any site or area where a hazardous substance has been deposited, stored, disposed of, or placed, or otherwise come to be located; but does not include any consumer product in consumer use or any water-borne vessel.

Specified Activities

There are 5 specified activities where workers must obtain HAZWOPER certification and follow HAZMAT safety procedures:

  1. 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 (including, but not limited to, the EPA’s National Priority Site List (NPL), state priority site lists, sites recommended for the EPA NPL, and initial investigations of government identified sites which are conducted before the presence or absence of hazardous substances has been ascertained); 1910.120(a)(1)(i) 
  2. Corrective actions involving clean-up operations at sites covered by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) as amended (42 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.); 1910.120(a)(1)(ii) 
  3. Voluntary clean-up operations at sites recognized by Federal, state, local or other governmental bodies at uncontrolled hazardous waste sites; 1910.120(a)(1)(iii) 
  4. Operations involving hazardous waste that are conducted at treatment, storage, disposal (TSD) facilities regulated by 40 CFR Parts 264 and 265 pursuant to RCRA; or by agencies under agreement with U.S.E.P.A. to implement RCRA regulations; 1910.120(a)(1)(iv) 
  5. Emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances without regard to the location of the hazard. 1910.120(a)(1)(v) 

What Jobs Require HAZWOPER?

Individuals who possess HAZWOPER certifications work in a wide range of jobs involving public health and safety. Jobs that require HAZWOPER training include:

HAZMAT Removers

HAZMAT removers specialize in cleaning up and removing hazardous materials from contaminated sites. HAZMAT Removers are also known as HAZWOPERs, HAZMAT technicians or HAZTECHS.

The hazardous materials they handle may include:

  • Oil including crude oil, oil sludge, petroleum-based chemicals, etc.
  • Biohazards such as mold, medical waste, corpses, contaminated dirt, etc.
  • Radiation from nuclear power plants and weapons storage facilities

HAZMAT Removers often work for the EPA , DOT, Health Departments and other government agencies.

HAZMAT Transporters

HAZMAT transporters specialize in hazardous materials from contaminated sites to treatment and disposal facilities. Transportation is typically by tanker truck or train, but may include airplanes, pumps and/or pipelines.

Typically a HAZMAT transporter works for a hazardous waste management company, who performs the cleanup and disposal of hazardous materials from contaminated sites.

HAZMAT Coordinators

A HAZMAT coordinator is expert at managing HAZMAT workers and hazardous materials projects. They are often also responsible for managing environmental permitting, compliance and other technical activities on behalf of the organization.

HAZWOPER Training Specialists

Training Specialists in HAZWOPER focus on training other professionals on HAZMAT handling. HAZWOPER Trainers typically work for HAZMAT consulting end education companies. They also work in the government, military, waste disposal, laboratory, healthcare, science, technology and manufacturing industries.

Fire Fighters

Fighting industrial fires exposes firefighters to dangerous chemicals, smoke and other life-threatening hazards. Therefore many fire fighters get HAZWOPER certified so they can safely work in HAZMAT fire situations.

Emergency Responders

EMTs, search and rescue and other emergency first responders are often confronted with HAZMAT situations. HAZWOPER training is often taken by these responders to ensure they know how to handle chemical spills, poisons and other threats while doing their jobs.

Police Officers

Likewise, police officers often come into contact with hazardous materials, be it a tanker truck crash on the freeway, or a small drug bust. HAZWOPER training can help police officers identify threats and avoid or contain them when assisting victims or apprehending criminals.

Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Agents

DEA agents making drug busts often come into contact with dangerous chemicals that can poison, explode, burn or suffocate. Drug manufacturing and packaging — particularly in methamphetamine labs — is highly dangerous. Agents get HAZWOPER training to handle these situations more safely, including wearing HAZMAT suits and handling large quantities of drugs and their components.

Agricultural Workers

Farmers, tractor operators and pesticide sprayers come into contact with hazardous chemicals on a regular basis. Agricultural workers get HAZWOPER training to know how to handle and avoid chemical spills and leaks, and handle personal exposures that can occur.

What HAZWOPER Training and Certifications are Available?

To become HAZWOPER certified, you will first have to be trained by an OSHA HAZWOPER approved trainer.

Initial HAZWOPER Certification Training

The training required to initially become HAZWOPER certified includes 2 courses:

Course #1: Your choice of a 24 or 40 hour course based on your job requirements:

HAZWOPER 24 hour course: This must be taken by workers who visit an Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Operation under permissible exposure limits (PELs). 24 hour courses typically cover Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), Hazardous Communication Standards and the requirements of OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.120(e)(3).  

HAZWOPER 40 hour course: This must be taken by workers who visit an Uncontrolled Hazardous Waste Operation over permissible exposure limits (PELs). 40 hour courses usually cover HAZMAT site identification and characterization, different types of hazardous chemicals and their dangers, radiation dangers, choosing the using the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), and HAZMAT decontamination techniques. A 40 hour course is typically required for workers in clean-up operations, emergency response, HAZMAT storage facilities, treatment facilities and disposal operations. It usually takes about 5 days to complete and includes in-person training and observation.

Course #2: HAZMAT Technician Initial Response course:

This HAZMAT Technician initial response training course is designed for first responders such as fire fighters, search & rescue, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The training focuses on properly identifying, approaching and handling HAZMAT situations such as explosions, fires, foul odors, poisoning and tanker crashes or leaks.  A HAZMAT Technician’s job is to proactively stop the release of hazardous materials at a site to prevent further contamination and injury. This course educates individuals on how HAZMAT initial response procedures work, regardless of whether he or she will become a HAZMAT Technician.

Ongoing HAZWOPER Training

HAZWOPER 8 hour refresher course: To maintain your HAZWOPER credential, you must complete 8 hours of HAZWOPER refresher training every 12 months. Refresher courses typically cover recognizing HAZMAT hazards, use of personal protective equipment (PPE), decontaminating locations that have hazardous materials, entry/egress in confined spaces, medical surveillance and emergency procedures, and how to properly handle and dispose of waste. This ensures workers stay up to date with their knowledge and learn about new HAZMAT threats and developments. Refresher training is required by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120 https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.120

HAZWOPER Certificate and Training Costs

Each level of training comes with a certificate. This serves as your credential and has an expiration date on it.

HAZWOPER training costs typically range from $30-250 per course. You can also get the training for free from your employer if they offer it.

Further information on HAZWOPER training requirements can be found on OSHA’s HAZWOPER website here: https://www.osha.com/courses/hazwoper.html

HAZWOPER Careers & Salaries

HAZWOPER salaries can range from $20-100 per hour, or $38,000 to $192,000 per year. HAZWOPER careers are in high demand, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects HAZMAT jobs to grow by 10% per year through 2026.

HAZMAT Containment and Disposal Managers earn between $70,000 and $144,000 annually, with a median salary of $110,000.

HAZMAT Technicians, Testers and Removers typically earn between $45,000 to $55,000 per year. Their responsibilities cover a range of duties including testing, high pressure blasting, emergency response clean-up, hazardous waste clean-up, and handling hazardous materials.

HAZMAT Transporters such as tanker drivers can earn high salaries ranging between $88,000 to $130,000 due to strong industry demand. A Class “A” HAZMAT Commercial driver license is required.

Agricultural HAZMAT specialists such as commercial crop applicators typically earn between $35,000 to $45,000 per year.

Senior Environmental Specialists working at a power plant or utility typically earn between $89,000 and $135,000 per year. They are generally responsible for monitoring and managing air, waste water, storm water and HAZMAT compliance.

Environmental Specialists working in a manufacturing facility usually earn between $45,000 to $75,000 annually. They are responsible for regulatory compliance, including environmental monitoring, sampling, testing and coordinating the permitting process for air quality, and disposal of HAZMAT / waste, wastewater and stormwater.

Oil industry HAZWOPER salaries are very high, such as a Crew Leader earning $110,000 to $125,000 per year. Responsibilities include management of chemical and material inventories at well sites, and coordination of clean-up, repair and preparation of equipment. Qualifications include a Class “A” commercial driver license (CDL) with with HAZMAT and Tanker endorsements.

A Hospital HAZMAT Receiver typically earns between $60,000 and $86,000 per year. This role is responsible for decontamination of incoming patients at the emergency room.

Sources: Salary.com, Indeed.com, CareerTrend.com


What Is a HAZWOPER Exclusion Area?

HAZWOPER Exclusion Areas are areas identified as having a possible life-threatening chemical, biological or radiological hazard. HAZMAT team members work throughout these HAZWOPER exclusion areas to save lives and lessen the chances of HAZMAT incidents occurring again in the future.

What Physical Examination is Needed for HAZWOPER?

HAZWOPER physical examination requirements include a pre-placement physical examination (PPE), which can be provided by your doctor or a company doctor.  This medical exam must be administered no more than 90 days before you begin work in HAZWOPER-related operations and must meet the requirements outlined in CFR 1910.120 Appendix C.

Who Can Teach HAZWOPER?

HAZWOPER Site Worker Trainers are certified to teach HAZWOPER. These are experienced hazardous waste workers who have been trained and certified to teach the HAZWOPER curriculum to their HAZWOPER co-workers, HAZMAT Technicians, HAZMAT Supervisors, Emergency Response Employees, Contractors or anyone working at a HAZMAT facility.

How to Become a Certified HAZWOPER Trainer?

To become a certified HAZWOPER trainer, you need to obtain a HAZWOPER instructor certification. This training certification is good for two years from the initial HAZWOPER course date.

When Were the HAZWOPER Regulations Created?

HAZWOPER regulations were created in response to the 1971 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). HAZWOPER was enacted in 1989 and then updated in 1993, 1994, 2004, 2012, and 2018.

How Long Is HAZWOPER Certification Good For?

HAZWOPER certification is good for two years from the HAZWOPER course date.

How Much Does HAZWOPER Training Cost?

HAZWOPER training costs typically range from $30-250 per course. You can also get the training for free from your employer if they offer it.

How Long Does HAZWOPER Training Take?

HAZWOPER training takes 24 or 40 hours over 2-10 days, depending on the course and education provider. HAZWOPER refresher training usually takes 8 hours every year. The duration and frequency depend on the state in which the training occurs.

HAZMAT vs HAZWOPER — What’s the Difference?

Hazardous materials (HAZMAT) are any materials that pose a risk to the environment or human health. In comparison, HAZWOPER refers specifically to laws passed by OSHA under the Clean Air Act. Exposure to and handling HAZMAT requires HAZWOPER training.









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Nick Klamecki, Author
About Nick Klamecki, Author

Nick Klamecki is a certified Fire and Workplace Safety expert with 15 years experience in product research and testing. He has a degree from U.C. Davis, is an active outdoorsman and spent years ensuring the safety of special needs children. Nick researches and tests workplace, industrial and safety products and provides advice on their safe use. Learn more about Nick here or connect with him on LinkedIn | Medium