Essential Hazmat Training Criteria for Responders, Leaders

There are many things that hazmat responders need to know to be effective (and safe!) during a hazmat incident. The way to ensure they are prepared is to train them. However, it does not stop there. The trainings you offer must be carefully audited and updated as needed. 

As the chief or designated training officer, you should conduct or direct an annual written audit of your training program. Program modifications to address deficiencies, if any, should be documented, approved, and implemented by the training provider. The audit and the program modification documents should be maintained at the training facility. This is known as Program Quality Control.

Program Quality Control criteria factors listed here are suggested criteria for determining the quality and appropriateness of employee health and safety training for emergency hazmat response. Please note that this is a basic overview on my part. For more details, consult the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.120 standards and documents.

Training Plan: Adequacy and appropriateness of the training program's curriculum development, instructor training, distribution of course materials, and direct student training should be considered, including:

  1. The duration of the training, course content, schedules/agendas, and the training requirements of the various target populations.
  2. The process for the development of the curriculum, which includes appropriate technical input, outside review, evaluation, program pretesting.
  3. Inclusion of hands-on, demonstration, and instruction methods; and proper monitoring of student safety, progress, and performance during the training.

Program Management: Look at the adequacy and appropriateness of staff performance and delivering an effective training program should be considered, including:

  1. Competency of chief, training officer(s), and staff.
  2. Evidence that the organizational training structure suits the needs of the training program and that the methods used are appropriate to accomplish the goals of the training.
  3. Sufficiency of the time committed by the training director and staff to the program and the adequacy of the ratio of training staff to students.

Training Facilities and Resources: Check the adequacy and appropriateness of the facilities and resources for supporting the training program should be considered, including:

  1. Space and equipment to conduct hands-on training.
  2. In the case of multiple-site programs, equipment, and facilities at the satellite centers.
  3. Adequacy and appropriateness of the quality control and evaluations of the program to account for instructor performance and allow appropriate course evaluation, feedback, updating, and corrective action.

Quality Control and Evaluation: Make sure to evaluate the adequacy and appropriateness of quality control and evaluation plans for training programs should be considered, including:

  1. A balanced advisory committee and/or competent outside reviewers to give overall policy guidance. As well as a clear and adequate definition of the composition and active programmatic role of the advisory committee or outside reviewers.
  2. Adequacy and appropriateness of the role of student evaluations to provide feedback for training program improvement.

Students: Adequacy and appropriateness of the program for accepting students should be considered, including:

  1. Assurance that the student already possesses the necessary skills for their job, including necessary documentation.
  2. Appropriateness of methods the program uses to ensure that recruits are capable of satisfactorily completing the training.
  3. Review and compliance with any medical clearance policy.

Institutional Environment and Administrative Support: Consider the adequacy and appropriateness of the institutional environment and administrative support system for the training program, including:

  1. Adequacy of the institutional commitment to the employee training program.
  2. Adequacy and appropriateness of the administrative structure and administrative support.

Summary of Evaluation Questions: Key questions for evaluating the quality and appropriateness of an overall training program should include the following:

  1.  Are the program objectives clearly stated?
  2. Is the program accomplishing its objectives?
  3. Are appropriate facilities and staff available?
  4. Is there an appropriate mix of classroom, demonstration, and hands-on training?
  5. Is the program providing quality employee health and safety training that fully meets the intent of regulatory requirements?
  6. What are the program's main strengths?
  7. What are the program's main weaknesses?
  8. What is recommended to improve the program?
  9. Are staff instructing according to their training outlines?
  10. Is the evaluation tool current and appropriate for the program content?
  11. Is the course material current and relevant to the target group?

Think that’s a lot? It is! But it ensures that you can build or adjust your training to fit the needs of your team and prepare them for an effective and safe response. 

Suggested Training Curriculum Guidelines:  I recommend the training curriculum guidelines identified in 29 CFR 1910.120 as requiring training.


Jim Rist is a retired fire chief of West Point (New York). He currently works as a Subject Matter Expert for the IAFC. 

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