Maintaining workplace safety means having the necessary training and protocols in place. For any organization that deals with hazardous waste, HAZWOPER is the most important set of guidelines for waste and dangerous goods at any stage of the storage, handling, or disposal process.

The Basics: What is HAZWOPER?

HAZWOPER is an acronym that refers to HAZardous Waste OPerations and Emergency Response. Specifically, there are a set of guidelines implemented by OSHA which provide instructions and regulations for dealing with hazardous waste and materials that could risk health or life. The guidelines aren’t just to protect against immediate dangers, but they are also intended to prevent any long term health problems that could be suffered by employees or emergency responders.

Why Is It Important to Understand HAZWOPER and Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response?

Most organizations have extensive health and safety policies for dealing with hazardous materials. Employees and visitors on any site that deals with hazardous materials need to be fully trained and authorized so that potential risks can be limited. However, no matter how good an operating policy is, or how many safety steps are implemented, there are ever present risks when dealing with hazardous materials and waste. Containers can leak or rupture, there can be spills, or there can be failings of machinery or certain processes could lead to exposure. Any time that an exposure event happens, organizations are responsible for ensuring that employees are protected.

In some cases, hazardous materials may be used as part of a production or cleanup process. In these cases, hazardous waste operations and emergency response are part of a continual process rather than a ‘worst case scenario’ plan. Examples include waste treatment facilities, chemical processing facilities, or any industry where hazardous materials are frequently present.

Having a safety policy and response plan is not enough on its own, and extensive staff training will need to be implanted to ensure that all employees understand what HAZWOPER is and that they know exactly what to do in a hazardous waste operations and emergency response scenario.

Structured Training is the Best Way to Improve Safety and Reduce Risk

An organization that is well prepared will be one that has fewer incidents or violations. With hazardous waste and materials, the stakes are high. Exposure or mishandling could lead to death, serious illness or injury, and may even mean liability for a company if they are not in compliance with all safety regulations.

Training is the best way to ensure that staff knows the right procedures, and training is also beneficial for C-suite executives and other stakeholders so that they can understand the seriousness of safety around hazardous waste and materials. When an organization understands the risk and the guidelines throughout the entire hazardous waste operations and emergency response process, there will be a higher likelihood of having the right procedures and policies in place.

Handlers of hazardous waste exist in both government and private organizations. When learning what HAZWOPER is, individuals will be able to distinguish between basic occupational situations and those that relate directly to hazardous waste sites. The HAZWOPER guidelines refer specifically to waste sites such as cleanup sites, processing sites, storage sites, and treatment or disposal facilities. All organizations, both government and private, will benefit from professional HAZWOPER training, and making an investment now can provide benefits for as long as there are hazards present within a facility or on a response site.