HAZWOPER is an acronym meaning Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. Proper HAZWOPER safety and training is essential for a wide variety of industries, as hazardous waste is commonly generated and you don’t necessarily have to work at a waste site to come into contact with hazardous substances. These substances include batteries, paints, pesticides, chemicals, bodily fluids, and cleaning agents. Many industries from hospitals to offices handle hazardous waste daily.

This type of waste is defined as any solids, liquids, or gases that exhibit at least one hazardous trait (toxicity, corrosivity, reactivity, or ignitability) and cannot be thrown away using traditional disposal methods due to the threat to environmental and/or human health. Given this factor, state and federal laws regulate the safe removal of hazardous waste.


HAZWOPER is the OSHA standard 1910.120 which covers both operational procedures and emergency response concerning hazardous waste. The standard is relatively broad and includes workers who participate in these activities:

  • Storage, treatment, and disposal of hazardous waste
  • Cleanup of hazardous spills/contaminated sites
  • Emergency response in the event of a catastrophic event such as an explosion, leak, or spill

HAZWOPER also includes workers who do not themselves interact directly with waste, but are employed in a facility where hazardous waste is treated, stored, or created. When a disaster strikes, everyone in the workplace needs to understand the correct course of action.

Training is a fundamental aspect to OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard. All employees who fall in the above classifications must complete training before they can participate in operations involving hazardous waste. An initial HAZWOPER training course must be completed, as well as refresher courses each year. Workers will undergo education on hazard controls, safety procedures, and proper use of PPE, as well as hours of on-the-field experience.

The accidental release of a hazardous substance may seriously threaten the health of workers as well as the immediate environment. The HAZWOPER standard establishes essential safety practices and training that will keep workers safe in a broad variety of industries.


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