Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, or HAZWOPER, training is available online, at the job site, and through other outlets, such as community colleges, labor unions, and companies that specialize in offering the training to the public for a fee. Since there are nine different levels of training recognized by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for certification, initial training time can range from 24 hours to 40 hours. Annual eight-hour refresher courses are also necessary to remain certified. If someone certified in HAZWOPER training has gone over the 12-month period without taking the refresher course, OSHA does not necessarily consider the certification immediately revoked. The official OSHA stance is that the need for repeating initial HAZWOPER training is dependent on a particular employee's familiarity with health and safety procedures as determined by the employer, and refresher training itself will still need to be completed as soon as possible.
Safety training that offers OSHA certification is designed to be somewhat flexible based on what environment the employee works in. For instance, hospital staff in worst case scenario situations are expected to have decontamination training at the First Responder Operations level. This is level 6 in HAZWOPER training and requires an additional eight hours of study over level 5 at a First Responder Awareness level. Official OSHA levels of training range from General site workers HAZWOPER training that involves 40 hours of instruction and three days of supervision in a training environment on up to the level 9 Scene Incident Commander, who must demonstrate competence in several subordinate levels of hazardous materials and emergency response measures.
Emergency response situations can cover a broad range of topics, from hazardous waste clean-up procedures to chemical contamination and environmental hazards, equipment hazards and safety and health procedures, and emergency First Responder protocols. The training programs and OSHA certifications are designed to be customized to meet these varied needs within the context of the particular workplace for which the individual is being trained. Online training programs often offer the greatest diversity in terms of learning these procedures at first and getting certified. Refresher training, however, is only accepted by OSHA in a computer-based format if it is supplemented by the student's ability to ask questions directly of a qualified trainer, and if there is a further hands-on assessment of what has been learned.
The U.S. government lists five areas where HAZWOPER training is required, the first four of which all involve required or voluntary clean-up of hazardous substances located at federal, state, local, and other government sites, including storage facilities for hazardous waste operated under Environmental Protection Agreement (EPA) regulations. The fifth category specifies that HAZWOPER training is required of all emergency response personnel who deal with hazardous substances, regardless of location. The level of training required of workers is determined by the employer or government agency in charge of the site.