In Case of Emergency: First Responder Initial Response Actions

When handling hazardous materials, it's critical you're ready to jump to action and respond safely and accordingly.

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Most organizations that have the potential for a hazardous release require HAZWOPER training for their employees. However, in the event of a release, many believe that initial responders are responsible for stopping the spill. According to the HAZWOPER standard, the purpose of the initial responder (operations level) is to protect life, property, or the environment from the effects of the release, not stop the release.

Initial responders are trained to respond in a defensive fashion without actually trying to terminate the release. Their function is to contain the release from a safe distance, keep it from spreading, and prevent exposures. Upon a discovery of a spill, the initial responder should take the following actions:

  • Report the emergency
  • Warn others and activate alarm
  • Take immediate personal protective measures
  • If safe to do so, initiate response actions consistent with level of training and response plans.

Properly trained emergency response personnel should then continue the response effort. Events that may require outside emergency assistance may include, but are not limited to:

  • An uncontrolled release of a hazardous material
  • Fire
  • Explosion
  • Serious injury or illness
  • Potential risk of exposure to blood borne pathogens.

According to OSHA, first responders at the operational level are those individuals who initially respond to hazardous substances releases. Employees who may be exposed to hazardous substances, including hazardous waste, are required to be HAZWOPER certified.

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