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Hazardous materials can pose unique and dangerous risks in emergency situations. Though implementation varies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers training curricula in four different levels. Not all of the training is sequential.
The first level of HAZMAT training is often referred to as "awareness." At this level you are trained to know how to recognize HAZMAT emergencies, protect yourself and notify the proper HAZMAT professionals. This certification is often given any emergency response worker whose normal line of work places them at risk for contact with hazardous materials.
Operational HAZMAT training focuses on techniques used to protect people, ecosystems or property from a hazardous material emergency. Those receiving this level of training are often the first to arrive at the scene after hazardous materials have been identified. Containment and mitigation are typically not part of this certification.
The level three, or HAZMAT technician certification, focuses on mitigating the source of hazardous material emergencies. Training should be in-depth and focus directly on the most likely hazardous materials emergencies to occur in a given situation. A person certified at the technician level will be responsible for rescue and containment. Technicians are generally not tasked with site cleanup.
HAZMAT Incident Commander
Unlike the other certifications, the fourth level of HAZMAT training focuses on the logistics involved in coordinating a hazardous material response effort. It may not be necessary for an incident commander to also be certified as a technician. OSHA does expect incident commanders to have complete HAZMAT operations training.