A Look at the Five Levels of HAZWOPER Training

HAZWOPER training is a specific type of safety training required under OSHA standards, and is required for those that work in conditions that may expose them to hazardous materials.

Jobs requiring HAZWOPER safety training may involve cleanup, treatment, storage, or disposal of hazardous waste.  In addition, it is required of those that are involved in the emergency responses that involve contaminated waste.

There are currently three main HAZWOPER training levels (emergency response, cleanup, and treatment/storage/disposal), though two additional levels overlap into the other three, making a total of 5 distinct, yet closely related, training levels.

Anyone that is looking to take HAZWOPER training courses should familiarize themselves with the different training levels to ensure they learn the correct safety procedures.    

That’s why we are here today to help you distinguish between the varied training levels and explain what each level involves.

1. First Responder Awareness Level

This level of training is reserved for employees that are responsible for discovering and/or identifying the release of hazardous substances while on the job. 

Said employees will need to understand what hazardous substances are, the risks associated with them, and which authorities to notify upon discovery of a contaminated site.

Keep in mind, however, this level of training does not extend past identification of hazardous waste.  Employees with this level of training only notify emergency responders of contamination and do not take any further action.

2. First Responder Operation Level

This level of training is designated for workers that can respond to emissions, releases, or possible releases in a defensive manner.  They are trained to protect the surrounding property, people, and environment in the case of an accident.

In addition to defensive protection of anything or anyone that is at risk for contaminations, employees with this level training are responsible for knowing how to implement their company’s emergency response plan.

3. Hazardous Material Technician

Anyone with the level of HAZWOPER training can offensively respond to dangerous releases and attempt to stop them.

Employees trained at this level understand their specific role in the stoppage of further contamination, will know the chain of command when it comes to emergency responses, and have learned the different decontamination procedures for the hazardous waste releases. 

Additionally, employees with this type of training are well-versed in chemical terminology.

4. Hazardous Material Specialist

Similar to a hazardous material technician, the specialist will have greater knowledge of the chemicals and hazardous materials on site.  More so, these employees will work at facilities that are designed to receive, treat, store, or dispose of hazardous waste materials.

In addition, they will thoroughly understand risk techniques and be able to quickly and efficiently develop and execute a site safety plan in the case of an emergency. 

Lastly, someone with this level of HAZWOPER training will be able to provide technical support to hazardous material technicians in the case they need additional help.

5. Incident Commanders

The last level of HAZWOPER training is equipped with the knowledge to assume complete control of a situation involving a hazardous waste emergency. 

They will have advanced knowledge of chemicals, emergency plans, and will understand the hazards and risks associated with other employees wearing chemical protective clothing.  In short, incident commanders are capable of protecting everyone on site, especially those with the highest risk of contamination.

To add to this, incident commanders are able to help in situations that involve unknown contamination emergencies.  This may include sites such as manufacturing facilities, food and beverage plants, and chemical plants where hazardous materials are often used, but are unintentionally released during the normal course of operation.

In the end, it is crucial you understand the different levels of HAZWOPER training so that should you gain employment at a facility that handles hazardous material of some sort, you know how to keep yourself and your co-workers as healthy and safe as possible.