Do your facility personnel have the right training to handle hazardous waste?

Under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), personnel (including authorized representatives such as contractors), handling hazardous waste on behalf of a hazardous waste generator require training depending on the generator category. Facilities classified as small quantity generators (SQGs) or large quantity generators (LQGs) of hazardous waste require initial and annual refresher RCRA training for personnel involved in hazardous waste management activities. A very small quantity generator (VSQG) (until recently, referred to as a conditionally exempt small quantity generator [CESQG]) may also require training if using a hazardous waste manifest. Regardless of the hazardous waste generator category, companies that receive, transport, and/or prepare for shipment, containers of hazardous material (including hazardous waste), require initial and tri-annual (if shipping by ground) refresher U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Hazardous Materials Regulation (HMR) training for personnel involved in those job functions. ALL generators, including VSQGs, need to know the amount of hazardous waste generated per month to ensure that personnel are properly trained. The training requirements are summarized in the table below. The training is subject to change if the facility becomes an episodic generator.

In our experience, one of the most common audit findings is personnel responsible for signing a hazardous waste manifest who do not have the proper DOT hazardous materials training.

Hazardous Waste Generator Training Requirements

Requirement Very Small Quantity Generator Small Quantity Generator Large Quantity Generator
Quantity LimitsThe amount of hazardous waste generated per month determines how a generator is categorized and what regulations must be followed. Less than 1/2 drum or 27 gallons or 220 pounds or 100 kilograms (approximate values). 1/2 to 5 drums or 27 – 275 gallons or 220 – 2200 pounds or 100 – 1,000 kilograms (approximate values). More than 5 drums or 275 gallons or 2200 pounds or 1,000 kilograms (approximate values).
Personnel TrainingEnsure appropriate personnel complete classroom or on-the-job training to become familiar with proper hazardous waste management and emergency procedures for the wastes handled at the facility. Not required. Basic training required§262.16(b)(9)(iii). Ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with proper waste handling and emergency procedures relevant to their responsibilities during normal facility operation and emergencies. Training required§262.17(a)(7). Conduct classroom instruction or on-the-job personnel training for facility employees and maintain documentation of personnel training. This requirement applies to facility personnel handling hazardous waste.
Pre-Transport RequirementsPackage and label hazardous waste for shipment off-site to an RCRA facility for treatment, storage, or disposal. Only if required by the DOT HMR or the state. Required§§262.30-262.33. Required§§262.30-262.33.


Regardless of generator category, personnel with hazardous waste management responsibilities should have training in proper waste handling and emergency procedures appropriate to the types of waste handled, the management methods used, and the hazards presented by the waste type and waste management method. This benefits both the generator and the individual by reducing spills and unnecessary exposure of employees to hazards.

The LQG training is the most rigorous, but what exactly is required?

An LQG must ensure that:

  • Individuals conducting the training program be trained in hazardous waste management procedures (qualified by either education or experience).
  • The training program teaches facility personnel hazardous waste management procedures relevant to the positions in which they are employed.
  • At a minimum, the training program is designed to ensure that facility personnel can respond effectively to emergencies. The outline must include instruction in waste management procedures and implementation of the company contingency plan.
  • Facility personnel complete an initial training program and an annual refresher training program.
  • Personnel training documentation is maintained on file at the facility, including written job titles and descriptions for each position related to hazardous waste management activities.
  • Written description of the type and amount of both introductory and continuing training that will be given to each person.
  • Records that document that the training or job experience required has been given to, and completed by, facility personnel (e.g., class roster with signatures).
  • Personnel training records on current employees are kept until closure of the facility.
  • Personnel training records for former employees are kept for at least three years from the date the employee last worked at the facility.

Are all hazardous waste generators required to have DOT HMR training?

Under the DOT HMRs, the DOT regulates ground shipments of hazardous waste that either meet the criteria of one or more of the standard Hazard Classes 1 through 9 or that are subject to manifesting under EPA requirements at 40 CFR 262 (49 CFR 171.8 – Definition of Hazardous Waste). Therefore, any personnel (including authorized representatives such as contractors), who prepare hazardous waste for shipment and sign a hazardous waste manifest on behalf of the generator must have comprehensive hazmat employee training in DOT (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180). This is required for any generator category using a hazardous waste manifest or any hazmat shipping paper (e.g., bill of lading).

A person signing a hazardous waste manifest will certify in Box 15:

I hereby declare that the contents of this consignment are fully and accurately described above by the proper shipping name, and are classified, packaged, marked and labeled/placarded, and are in all respects in proper condition for transport according to applicable international and national government regulations. (49 CFR 172.204(a)(2) and 40 CFR 262, Appendix, EPA Form 8700-22 (Rev. 3-05) Item 15 – Uniform Hazardous Waste Manifest).

A brief list of employees with job functions who are likely to require this training are those who:

  • Classify materials (analyze or research literature)
  • Determine if a material is a hazardous waste or hazardous substance (determines reportable quantities)
  • Assign packing groups or hazard zones
  • Are involved in selecting shipping descriptions
  • Design, select, purchase, fill, or close packages
  • Determine if a package can be reused, if a package is empty, or if a package needs reconditioning (e.g., tank cars, cargo tanks, and drums)
  • Determine or affix any markings or labels for a package
  • Determine if placards are required, provide placards, or affix placards
  • Determine what should appear on shipping papers or complete the shipping papers
  • Determine emergency response information to be included with shipping papers
  • Select carriers or modes of transportation to be used
  • Load or unload hazardous materials (e.g., warehouses or loading docks)
  • Respond to damaged containers, spills, or leaks and report incidents
  • Operate any vehicle or equipment used to transport hazardous materials

Anyone who directly supervises those performing any of these activities also needs to be trained. In addition, hazardous material (hazmat) employers must also ensure that anyone performing any regulated function on their behalf, such as a contractor, has been fully trained before they begin their work. The hazmat employee training requirements at 49 CFR 172, Subpart H—Training contain five elements—general awareness, security awareness, and function-specific training are required for all hazmat employees, while safety and security plan training are required only for certain hazmat employees and facilities (49 CFR 172.704[a]). The intent is that whoever signs the manifest will certify that all aspects of the shipment are in full compliance with the HMR. This person is the most import person in the cycle of transportation, having the final say before the actual movement that there are no problems with the shipment. To certify that everything is right and in compliance with the regulations, the person must understand what “right” is (i.e., classification, naming, packaging, marking, labeling, placarding, paperwork, and all other applicable transport regulations). Training must be completed initially for a new hazmat employee, or a hazmat employee who changes job functions, and must recur at least once every three years. Each hazmat employer must create and retain a record of current training of each hazmat employee, inclusive of the preceding three years.

If a generator has chosen an authorized representative to sign a manifest on their behalf, the generator is a hazmat employer and therefore, must ensure their authorized representative has the appropriate training, which is initially and then every three (3) years to comply with shipping by ground and every two (2) years for shipping by air. If the person is not directly employed by the generator (e.g., contractor), the generator should request copies of the current training certificates for their own records. Remember: Function-specific training must provide a detailed understanding of HMR requirements applicable to the shipment the person is certifying/signing.

Are VSQGs, Episodic Generators, and handlers of universal waste exempt from RCRA and DOT training?

It is a common misconception that VSQGs and episodic generators are exempt from RCRA and DOT training for handling hazardous waste. VSQGs are exempt from RCRA training; however, if the VSQG is using a hazardous waste manifest, which is not required but is not uncommon, the person(s) signing the manifest and completing all the tasks described in the certification, MUST have DOT training. DOT does not exempt any training based on the type of RCRA hazardous waste generator. Same with episodic generators. If a VSQG temporarily becomes an SQG or LQG, a manifest will be used for the episodic event to send to an RCRA-designated facility, therefore, training must be completed. However, the condition to manifest the hazardous waste and send it off-site to an RCRA-designated facility only applies to the hazardous waste generated as a result of the episodic event, so the generator will need to conduct refresher training should it remain a VSQG after the episodic generator event.

Always plan for episodic events to ensure the proper notifications and training are completed.

A facility that elects to manage waste under the Standards for Universal Waste Management, universal waste-specific training applies depending on whether the facility is a small or large quantity handler of universal waste. A small quantity handler of universal waste must inform all employees who handle or have responsibility for managing universal waste of proper handling and emergency procedures appropriate to the type(s) of universal waste handled at the facility (40 CFR 273.16), whereas a large quantity handler of universal waste must ensure that all employees are thoroughly familiar with proper waste handling and emergency procedures, relative to their responsibilities during normal facility operations and emergencies (40 CFR 273.36).

Does the training depend on location or type of operation?

The training requirements may vary by state, but must be at least as stringent as the federal rules. For example, Colorado allows only 13 months between RCRA employee training sessions. As for type of operations, the generator category is based solely on the amount of hazardous waste generator (and type when considering acute hazardous waste). It does not matter if it is from a manufacturing facility, warehouse, commercial facility, or remediation site, unless it explicitly states it is exempt from regulation.
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