What is a Hazardous Materials Removal Worker?

Also known as: Hazmat Worker, Hazmat Technician, Hazmat Removal Worker, Hazardous Materials Technician, Hazardous Materials Worker.

Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, radioactive and nuclear waste, arsenic, lead, and other hazardous materials. They also clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive, reactive, or toxic. Hazmat removal workers face different working conditions, depending on their area of expertise. Some must wear fully enclosed protective suits for several hours at a time. Completing projects often requires night and weekend work. Overtime also is common, especially for emergency or disaster response workers.

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What does a Hazardous Materials Removal Worker do?

Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers typically do the following:

  • Comply with safety procedures and federal laws regarding waste disposal
  • Construct scaffolding or build containment areas before cleaning up
  • Remove or clean up hazardous materials that are found or spilled
  • Clean contaminated equipment for reuse
  • Operate equipment that removes and stores waste materials
  • Keep records of cleanup activities

Hazmat removal workers clean up materials that are harmful to people and the environment. The work they do depends on the substances they are cleaning. Removing lead and asbestos is different from cleaning up radiation contamination and toxic spills. Differences also can relate to why these workers have been called in to clean a site. For example, cleaning up a fuel spill from a train derailment is more urgent than removing lead paint from a bridge.

What is the workplace of a Hazardous Materials Removal Worker like?

Hazmat removal workers have different working conditions, depending on their area of expertise. Asbestos and lead abatement workers usually work in office buildings, schools, or historic buildings that are being fixed up. Frequently, completing projects requires night and weekend work to avoid interfering with normal business activity.

Treatment, storage, and disposal workers are usually employed at facilities such as landfills, incinerators, and industrial furnaces. These facilities often are located in remote areas, so workers may have to commute long distances to their jobs.

Decommissioning and decontamination workers, decontamination technicians, and radiation protection technicians work at nuclear facilities and electric power plants. These hazmat removal workers must deal with the stress of handling radioactive materials.

Hazmat removal workers function in a highly structured environment to minimize the danger they face. This concern for safety keeps occupational injuries below the national average. Each phase of an operation is planned in advance, and workers are trained to deal with hazardous situations. Crews and supervisors take every safety measure to ensure that the worksite is safe.


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