Hazmat Employee: A Guide To Regulations

hazmat employee holding Caution: Biological Hazard Signage

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulate hazardous materials and have established specific criteria that determine who is considered a hazmat employee. It is important to understand these regulations as they impact the training, qualifications, and responsibilities of employees who work with hazardous materials.

Who is Considered a Hazmat Employee?

A hazmat employee is any individual who performs a job that involves the transportation, handling, or storage of hazardous materials. This includes those who work in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing. Some examples of job titles that may fall under the hazmat employee category include:

  • Truck drivers who transport hazardous materials
  • Employees who load or unload hazardous materials
  • Warehouse workers who handle hazardous materials
  • Individuals who prepare hazardous materials for shipment
  • Hazmat safety personnel who respond to hazardous material incidents
  • In addition to the above, DOT and OSHA regulations also consider individuals who design, test, or certify packaging for hazardous materials to be hazmat employees.

Regulations for Hazmat Employees

DOT and OSHA have established specific regulations for hazmat employees to ensure their safety as well as the safety of others around them. The regulations require employers to provide hazmat employees with appropriate training, testing, and certification.

DOT Regulations for Hazmat Employees

49 CFR 171.1 is a regulation under the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) that defines a hazmat employee and outlines the requirements for their training and qualifications.

Under 49 CFR 171.1, a hazmat employee is defined as any person who is employed by a hazmat employer and who directly affects hazardous materials transportation safety. This includes individuals who:

  • Load, unload, or handle hazardous materials
  • Transport hazardous materials
  • Design, manufacture, test, recondition, repair, or mark containers, packaging, or tanks that are used to transport hazardous materials
  • Prepare hazardous materials for transportation
  • Are responsible for the safety of transporting hazardous materials
  • Respond to and clean up hazardous materials incidents

49 CFR 171.1 also outlines the requirements for hazmat employee training and certification. The training must be designed to enable the employee to perform their job functions in a way that is safe and compliant with DOT regulations. The certification must be renewed every three years, and additional training may be required in the event of a regulation change or an incident involving hazardous materials. The training must include:

  • General awareness/familiarization training on hazardous materials
  • Function-specific training on the employee's job responsibilities related to hazardous materials
  • Safety training on emergency response procedures, personal protective equipment, and safe handling practices
  • Security awareness training on recognizing and responding to potential security threats related to hazardous materials transportation
  • In-depth security training for certain employees who handle security-sensitive hazardous materials

OSHA Regulations on Hazmat Employees

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is another federal agency that regulates the handling and transportation of hazardous materials. OSHA has established regulations that govern the safety and health of employees who work with these materials, including hazmat employees.

  • OSHA's Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) requires employers to provide employees with information and training on the hazardous chemicals they work with, as well as the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and emergency response procedures.
  • OSHA's Process Safety Management (PSM) standard requires employers to establish and maintain a comprehensive program to manage hazards associated with highly hazardous chemicals. This includes identifying and assessing the hazards of the chemicals, establishing and implementing operating procedures, providing employee training and involvement, and conducting ongoing evaluations of the program's effectiveness.
  • OSHA also requires employers to provide employees with access to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for hazardous chemicals they may be exposed to. The MSDS contains information about the hazards of the chemical, proper handling and storage procedures, and emergency response procedures.
  • In the event of an incident involving hazardous materials, OSHA has established the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard to provide guidelines for emergency response operations. The HAZWOPER standard requires employers to develop and implement an emergency response plan, provide appropriate PPE and training to responders, and establish procedures for reporting and investigating incidents.
A hazmat employee is any individual who works with hazardous materials in their job, including transportation, handling, or storage of such materials. DOT and OSHA have established specific regulations that determine who is considered to be one, and these regulations require the employers to provide the training, certification, PPE, and other essentials to keep the employee safe. Hazmat employees play a critical role in ensuring the safe handling of hazardous materials and protecting the environment and human health.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.