There are no formal educational requirements to become a hazardous materials removal worker beyond a high school diploma. They learn on the job and take at least 40 hours of mandatory occupational safety and health training.
Employers are responsible for ensuring that employees complete a formal 40-hour training program, given either in house or in approved training centers. The program covers health hazards, personal protective equipment and clothing, site safety, recognizing and identifying hazards, and decontamination.
Workers who treat asbestos and lead, the most common contaminants, must complete an employer-sponsored training program that meets OSHA standards. Employer-sponsored training is usually given in-house, and the employer is responsible for covering all technical and safety subjects outlined by OSHA.
In some cases, workers may discover one hazardous material while dealing with another. If workers are not licensed to handle the newly discovered material, they cannot continue to work with it.
Many experienced workers opt to take courses in additional types of hazardous material removal to avoid this situation. Training is most extensive for decommissioning and decontamination workers employed at nuclear facilities. In addition to getting a license through the standard 40-hour training course in hazardous waste removal, workers must take courses dealing with regulations about nuclear materials and radiation safety. These courses add up to about three months of training, although most are not taken consecutively.
Most hazardous materials removal workers entering the occupation have a high school diploma. High school math courses are helpful, as are general vocational technical education courses. Additionally, there are several associate’s degree programs related to radiation protection. To work at some nuclear facilities, workers must have two years of related work experience. Experience in the armed services and internships related to associate’s degree programs often count, as does experience working as a janitor at a nuclear facility. For other workers in this occupation, a background in construction is helpful because much of the work is done in buildings.