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Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of materials that are harmful to people and the environment. Such materials may consist of arsenic, lead, asbestos, and nuclear/radioactive waste. They also neutralize and clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic.
Hazmat removal workers identify materials in a spill or leak and choose the proper method for cleaning up. For example, when a chemical tanker overturns, workers must decide if evacuation is needed, and clean up the site. Overtime is common, particularly for emergency or disaster response workers.
Working conditions for hazmat removal workers differ depending on the material they are handling. Some must wear protective suits for several hours at a time while they remove toxic materials and perform cleanup work.
Asbestos and lead abatement workers typically work in office buildings, schools, or historic buildings that are being renovated. Other hazmat workers work at nuclear facilities, electric power plants, landfills, incinerators, and industrial furnaces. Some firefighters are also trained as hazmat specialists to conduct emergency cleanup of chemical and hazardous materials spills.
Most hazmat workers complete up to 40 hours of hazardous waste removal training in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Hazmat workers employed at nuclear facilities also must take courses on nuclear materials and radiation safety as mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
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