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The Differences Between HAZMAT & HAZWOPER Certifications

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Certain jobs require that you work with hazardous materials. In order to ensure the safety of the employee as well as the public, workers are required to undergo special training. The training they receive usually ends in a certification that indicates that they are qualified to work with potentially dangerous substances. Two of the certifications you can receive are the HAZMAT certification and the HAZWOPER certification.

Government Agencies

The primary difference between the two certifications is who regulates them. The Department of Transportation (DOT) regulates the functions and training of the HAZMAT certification. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates the functions and training of the HAZWOPER certification. Both agencies and their respective certifications have a clearly defined role within the occupation of hazardous materials.


HAZMAT is short for "hazardous materials." The purpose of this certification is to train employees in how to safely transport dangerous materials. This is accomplished by setting standards and regulations on how the materials are packaged, setting up a system of labeling hazardous materials and designing guidelines on how the materials move from one place to another. HAZMAT certifications are set in place to avoid a potential catastrophic event. Some materials if handled improperly could cause harm to the individual transporting them as well as harm to many more people in a far-reaching radius.


HAZWOPER stands for "Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standards." The HAZWOPER certification and regulations are run by OSHA and have a very defined purpose. While the HAZMAT certification sets out to ensure an issue does not develop, the HAZWOPER certification is in place to regulate the cleanup in uncontrolled environments. It regulates how hazardous waste is disposed of, sets guidelines to ensure waste is disposed of properly and establishes procedures for an event that involves the release of hazardous waste. Proper storage and cleanup of hazardous waste has the potential to save many lives.

Training and Certification

The best place to look for training and certification information is on the appropriate government agency website. OSHA has a dedicated training website called "OSHA Campus." You can find links to the appropriate online or classroom training for the various OSHA certifications including HAZWOPER. The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has an information page on HAZMAT training. You can find links to resources as well as state and local facilities that can assist you in obtaining your HAZMAT certification.


Evan Em is a freelance copywriter, creative nonfiction author and financial services communications specialist. Writing professionally since 1999, Em has provided print and online copy for Starbucks, Nolan Helmets, CalNational Bank and TCF Bank. He studied English at Columbia College Chicago.