HAZMAT VS HAZWOPER, What’s the Difference?

Posted: July 25th, 2018
Commercial Diving,Hazwoper/Hazmat

Once hazardous materials combine with a body of water, emergency services rely on HAZMAT and HAZWOPER divers to reinstate a safe and habitable environment. These hazardous jobs can vary in severity and difficulty as the materials can range from radioactive liquids, oil spills, and more. Not only are these materials dangerous to our health, but they are also detrimental to animals that live in or drink the contaminated water. HAZMAT and HAZWOPER divers play a vital role in ensuring that any contamination is maintained at a safe level. Although both divers work with hazardous materials, there is a significant difference between the two. Simply put, HAZMAT divers can only complete tasks attributed to HAZMAT professionals, while HAZWOPER divers can complete both HAZWOPER and HAZMAT tasks.

Hazardous Materials or “HAZMAT” training teaches individuals about the hazardous materials they may encounter, what dangers they pose, and how to manage them. The HAZMAT industry is most often integrated with the Department of Transportation as most tasks involve transporting hazardous materials. For divers, this means aiding boats and ships that are carrying large amounts of chemical cargo. HAZMAT divers are responsible for making sure these chemicals stay contained and are handled with caution. These professionals can also find work outside of the diving world, by performing similar tasks on land. Earning a HAZMAT certification can prepare you for a career as a HAZMAT diver, or aide in your education towards becoming a HAZWOPER diver.

Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response, or “HAZWOPER” training educates divers about the necessary steps and procedures when responding to a HAZMAT emergency.  When HAZMAT transportation goes wrong, emergency responders look to HAZWOPER divers to resolve the situation in a safe and timely manner. Depending on the situation, HAZWOPER divers may be responsible for stopping leaks, informing nearby people what to do, and cleaning up the hazardous materials to ensure the situation is resolved. Much in the same way that a first responder arrives on-scene to help contain an accident, HAZWOPER divers are in control of the situation.

While HAZMAT and HAZWOPER divers play different roles, both divers must wear industry-specific and thoroughly inspected equipment.  When exposed to mildly contaminated water, HAZMAT and HAZWOPER equipment consists of gloves, a utility belt, and a dry suit with a sealed neck and free-flow helmet. Divers who are regularly exposed to higher levels of contamination require additional equipment to ensure the hazardous materials don’t reach the diver’s skin.  Higher-level exposure requires the diver to wear a full free-flow helmet, vulcanized rubber dry suits with attached gloves, and boots.

A career in HAZMAT and HAZWOPER management can be a great fit for those wanting to save the world, but it’s worth noting that this industry can be dangerous and must be pursued with caution. Whether you choose to work within the hazardous materials industry or not, earning your HAZMAT/HAZWOPER certification can help all divers prepare for the unexpected. Knowing exactly how to handle hazardous materials is vital to diver safety and success, therefore, choosing where to receive your HAZMAT/HAZWOPER training is an extremely important decision.

At IDI we offer a comprehensive HAZMAT/HAZWOPER course that closely follows the OSHA guidelines; the industry standard for safety. The IDI course meets the core competencies for Hazardous Materials Technician and On-Scene Incident Commander as outlined in OSHA 1910.120 Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response and the educational competencies referenced in NFPA 472–Professional Competence of Responders to Hazardous Materials. Proper training and hands-on experience are essential when becoming certified as a HAZMAT or HAZWOPER diver, and at IDI we have everything you’ll need to find success in your new career.