Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response

This occupational safety and health topic page covers two subjects: hazardous waste site operations and emergency response to the uncontrolled release of chemicals. To begin this discussion, we will define two terms, "hazardous waste" and "emergency response."

Hazardous waste is defined as:

  • a waste or combination of wastes as defined in 40 CFR 261.3, or

  • those substances defined as hazardous wastes in 49 CFR 171.8

"Emergency response" or "responding to an emergency" is defined as a response effort by employees from outside the immediate release area or by other designated responders to an occurrence which results, or is likely to result, in an uncontrolled release of a hazardous substance. An emergency response does not include a response to incidental releases of hazardous substances where the substance can be absorbed, neutralized, or otherwise controlled at the time of release by employees in the immediate area or by maintenance personnel. Also not included are responses to releases of hazardous substances where there is no potential safety or health hazard.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER)

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with hazardous waste?

Occupational exposure to hazardous waste can result in acute and chronic illness, and death, due to lack of training and protective clothing and equipment. In addition, uncontrolled release of hazardous waste can also result in property damage when incompatible chemical wastes are allowed to mix.

What can I do to protect myself?

Employees should never attempt to clean up chemical spills unless they have received the appropriate training and are equipped to respond to the spill. If a chemical release is observed from outside your work area, notify your supervisor and evacuate the area.

What resources are available to assist employers?

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations on hazard communication, respiratory protection, and PPE can be used for employee training. In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).

Safety and Health Programs

A hazardous chemical emergency response plan,  hazard communication program, respirator program and PPE hazard assessment can be downloaded and customized to fit an individual workplace. 

A-Z Safety and Health Topics

More resources can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics pages for hazard communication, respiratory protectionprocess safety management, emergency response and personal protective equipment

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to hazardous waste operations and emergency response in North Carolina. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry


State-specific Standard

In addition, North Carolina has added the following state-specific rule for hazardous waste operations and emergency response:

Other standards that may apply to hazardous waste operations and emergency response:

General Industry

Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Compliance Documents

Industry Guides

Technical Assistance

Inquiries about workplace safety and health requirements can be submitted to Ask OSH through the online form, by email to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov, or by phone at 919-707-7876.