In the realm of emergency management, it is not uncommon to hear the word HAZMAT used when talking about everything from industrial hygiene to oil spill cleanups. For emergency management professionals, HAZMAT and HAZMAT training must not only be a consideration, but a priority that ensures the health, safety and well-being of emergency personnel and the general public.
What is HAZMAT?
HAZMAT, which is an abbreviated term for “hazardous materials,” is generally used to describe any material that can be dangerous to humans in the event of direct exposure. As such, hazardous materials may be defined as anything that is irritating to the skin, harmful to the eyes, poisonous if ingested, or toxic if inhaled.
Dangerous materials may include anything that is:
The term HAZMAT is generally used when discussing training. Specifically, individuals who may come in contact with hazardous materials must receive appropriate HAZMAT training as to ensure their safety and others’ safety when either avoiding or coming in contact with the hazardous materials.
What is HAZMAT Training?
HAZMAT training involves any type of training or instruction that prepares an individual to safely handle, avoid contact with, or dispose of hazardous materials. Emergency management professionals are generally called upon to ensure a hazard-based response and to make risk-based decisions when dealing with hazardous materials.
HAZMAT training and subsequent certification may be provided by a private company or federal, state or local agency. It is an integral part of training for emergency management professionals, as these individuals may find themselves working in an area where they may come in contact with hazardous materials.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of the U.S. Department of Labor enforces government policies regarding safety in the workplace, which may include dealing with and disposing of hazardous materials, from swimming pool chemicals to volatile cleaning products. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation enforces government policies related to individuals dealing with oil pipelines and similar structures.
HAZMAT Training and Emergency Management
Emergency management employees generally undergo HAZMAT training as part of their occupational training, which may include everything from highway emergency response to weapons of mass destruction. Because the scope of an emergency management professional’s job may be quite significant, training in this field must be broad and comprehensive.
Training involves learning to recognize the presence of hazardous materials and learning to take the necessary actions as first responders. Emergency management HAZMAT training, which is generally provided by state agencies, must meet federal guidelines through such agencies as OSHA, the EPA and NFPA.
Emergency management personnel must be able to protect themselves, while also protecting the public, the environment, and property from the release of the hazardous materials. Generally, hazardous materials training involves responding in a defensive fashion without directly handling the hazardous materials or attempting to stop its release. In other words, their function involves preventing exposure by keeping individuals at a safe distance.
Other in-depth training may involve learning to take appropriate action as a responder at the technical level, which involves responding to the release or potential release of the hazardous materials and for controlling its release. This more aggressive approach involves extensive HAZMAT training, which generally involves everything from using specialized control equipment to wearing specialized protective clothing.
Training programs for emergency management personnel may be general or they may involve training specific to types of hazardous materials, such as:
- Meth Labs
- Oil Spills
- Biodiesel Fuels
- Ethanol and Ethanol-Blended Fuels
- Explosives and Chemical Weapons
- Weapons of Mass Destruction: Radiological/Nuclear
HAZMAT and Industrial Hygiene Training
Industrial hygiene involves anticipating, recognizing, evaluating and controlling conditions that may cause injury. As such, it is an integral part of HAZMAT training for the emergency management professional.
Industrial hygienists in emergency management settings are also called upon to set up field enforcement procedures, ensure compliance with OSHA and other federal government regulations and standards, and analyze hazards and other stressors that can cause impaired health, discomfort, or sickness of emergency management personnel.
Jobs in industrial hygiene involve being able to evaluate and control a number of hazards, including human exposure to chemical, physical, ergonomic, and biological agents. In emergency management settings, industrial hygienists deal with such issues as hazardous waste disposal and air pollution.
With a number of federal laws in place, including the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), the Superfund Amendment and Reauthorization Act (SARA) and the Clean Air Act, individuals trained in industrial hygiene are in demand in a number of industries, including the emergency management field.
Certification programs in industrial hygiene have become commonplace. These training and certification programs are designed to allow professionals in emergency management to properly develop, administer and evaluate safety and health programs, assess their effect on the public health, and recommend remedial action.
Areas of study in an industrial hygiene certificate program often include:
- Indoor air qualify
- Airborne hazards
- Occupational health standards
- Sampling for airborne contaminants
- Occupational skin disorders
- Occupational noise exposure
- Ionizing and nonionizing radiation
- Ergonomic and temperature extremes
- Personal protective equipment