Posted on: May 9, 2024

What's the Difference Between OSHA and HAZWOPER Training?

What's the Difference Between OSHA and HAZWOPER Training?

Two acronyms often pop up in the construction industry: OSHA and HAZWOPER. While they’re both federal workplace safety standards, there are many differences between the two, and the type of work you do will affect the type of training you need. In this blog, we’ll clear up any confusion and compare the two, explaining their distinct purposes, requirements, and importance for workplace safety.

OSHA vs HAZWOPER Training & Standards

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards are the workplace safety protections extended to most employees in the private sector of the U.S. Some standards are industry-specific, like construction and longshoring, but most of the rules apply to any type of workplace.

OSHA requires employers to train employees in “everything they need to know to do their job safely.” Some individual standards have explicit training mandates, but the broader mandate means that workers need to be trained on any workplace hazards that they might encounter.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, or HAZWOPER, is a specific General Industry standard that protects people who will or may be exposed to hazardous substances in the course of their work. It includes unusually specific training mandates that lay out the length of training, the topics, and the manner in which training may be delivered.

HAZWOPER was written after the environmental cleanup and hazardous waste disposal laws were passed in the 1970s. HAZWOPER’s purpose and importance was to prevent illness and injury in the workers that would inevitably come into close contact with dangerous waste while following these new requirements.

HAZWOPER vs. OSHA Certification Requirements

As mentioned above, HAZWOPER has very specific training requirements. Before workers can begin the relevant type of work, they need to complete an initial 24- or 40-hour course, followed by hands-on training and supervised fieldwork. At the end of this training, employers must “certify” that each worker is competent in HAZWOPER standards.

That’s why this initial training, or maintaining the mandatory 8-hour refresher, is often referred to as “HAZWOPER certification.” It’s a strict federal legal requirement for those employers.

OSHA’s other safety standards also come with training requirements, but they’re far less standardized. Employers have a lot of discretion in how to adequately train their staff.

However, OSHA outlines a series of 10- or 30-hour courses called OSHA Outreach, and these programs are required by certain states, cities, and employers. They cover many required OSHA training topics in a standardized format, which is why people often refer to them as “OSHA Certification.”

Industries and Roles Requiring OSHA vs HAZWOPER Training

OSHA training is necessary to some extent in all workplaces. Low-risk industries like office work may only require online courses in a few topics, while high-risk industries like construction or manufacturing will require extensive training tailored to the environment and role.

HAZWOPER’s target audience is much more narrow in terms of industries and roles. It’s really intended for:

  • Uncontrolled waste site cleanup
  • Treatment, Storage, and Disposal (TSD) facilities
  • Facilities that store or generate substances regulated under HAZWOPER
  • Private or public emergency first responders

Importance of Compliance in Workplace Safety

Employers are required to provide training in many OSHA training topics, including HAZWOPER. Compliance in workplace safety training is its own end.

But also, ensuring that your workforce is properly trained in OSHA and/or HAZWOPER can save you thousands of dollars a year – not just in OSHA fines but in worker’s compensation claims, missed days of work, damaged property, and other costs that accumulate in the wake of accidents.

The key is to deliver the training to be effective, not just to check off a compliance box.

We’ve been an OSHA-authorized online training provider for over 20 years, and we have a proven track record of delivering self-paced and up-to-date safety training. We offer OSHA Outreach courses, commonly referred to as OSHA certification, as well as a range of mandatory OSHA topics. We also offer HAZWOPER refresher courses and the classroom portions of initial HAZWOPER training.

We offer bulk discounts, a free LMS, and other benefits to enterprise clients. Head to our website to enroll today!