Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste, and other hazardous materials. They also neutralize and clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive, or toxic.Duties
Hazmat removal workers typically do the following:
Hazmat removal workers clean up materials that are harmful to people and the environment. They usually work in teams and follow strict instructions and guidelines. The specific duties of hazmat removal workers depend on the substances that are targeted and the location of the cleanup. For example, removing lead and asbestos requires different actions than does cleaning up radiation contamination and toxic spills, and cleaning up a fuel spill from a train derailment is more urgent than removing lead paint from a bridge.
The following are examples of types of hazmat removal workers:
Asbestos abatement workers and lead abatement workers remove asbestos and lead, respectively, from buildings and structures, particularly those which are being renovated or demolished. Most of this work is in older buildings that were originally built with asbestos insulation and lead-based paints—both of which are now banned.
Asbestos and lead abatement workers apply chemicals to surfaces, such as walls and ceilings, in order to soften asbestos or remove lead-based paint. Once the chemicals are applied, workers cut out asbestos from the surfaces or strip the walls. They package the residue or paint chips and place them in approved bags or containers for proper disposal. Lead abatement workers operate sandblasters, high-pressure water sprayers, and other tools to remove paint. Asbestos abatement workers also use scrapers or vacuums to remove asbestos from buildings.
Decommissioning and decontamination workers remove and treat radioactive materials generated by nuclear facilities and power plants. They break down contaminated items such as “glove boxes,” which are used to process radioactive materials, and they clean and decontaminate closed or decommissioned (taken out of service) facilities.
Emergency and disaster response workers clean up hazardous materials in response to natural or human-made disasters and accidents, such as those involving trains, trucks, or other vehicles transporting hazardous materials.
Radiation-protection technicians measure, record, and report radiation levels; operate high-pressure cleaning equipment for decontamination; and package radioactive materials for removal or storage.
Treatment, storage, and disposal workers prepare and transport hazardous materials for treatment, storage, or disposal. Proper treatment of materials requires these workers to follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Using equipment such as forklifts, earthmoving machinery, and trucks, these workers move materials from contaminated sites to incinerators, landfills, or storage facilities. Workers also organize and track the locations of items in these facilities.
Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers receive on-the-job training. They must complete up to 40 hours of training in accordance with Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standards.
There are no formal education requirements beyond a high school diploma.
Some hazmat removal workers must be licensed. Positions in nuclear facilities require candidates to be U.S. citizens, pass a security background investigation, and pass drug and alcohol abuse screening.Education
Hazmat removal workers typically need a high school diploma. Although not required, associate’s degree programs related to radiation protection may help candidates seeking positions in nuclear facilities.Training
Hazmat removal workers receive training on the job. Training generally includes a combination of classroom instruction and fieldwork. In the classroom, they learn safety procedures and the proper use of personal protective equipment. Onsite, they learn about equipment and chemicals, and are supervised by an experienced worker.
As part of this training, workers must complete up to 40 hours of training in accordance with OSHA standards. The length of training depends on the type of hazardous material that workers handle. The training covers health hazards, personal protective equipment and clothing, site safety, recognizing and identifying hazards, and decontamination.
To work with a specific hazardous material, workers must complete training requirements and work requirements set by state or federal agencies on handling that material.
Workers who treat asbestos or lead, the most common contaminants, must complete an employer-sponsored training program that covers technical and safety subjects outlined by OSHA.
Decommissioning and decontamination workers at nuclear facilities receive extensive training. In addition to completing the OSHA-required hazardous waste removal training, workers must take courses on nuclear materials and radiation safety as mandated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. These courses may take up to 3 months to complete, although most are not taken consecutively.
Organizations and companies provide training programs that are approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and other regulatory agencies.Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
In addition to completing the training required by OSHA, some states mandate permits or licenses, particularly for asbestos and lead removal. Workers who transport hazardous materials may need a state or federal permit.
License requirements vary by state, but candidates typically must meet the following criteria:
To maintain licensure, workers must take continuing education courses each year. For more information, check with the state’s licensing agency.Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Although previous work experience is not required, some employers prefer candidates with experience in the construction trades, such as construction laborers and helpers.
In addition, some employers at nuclear facilities prefer to hire workers with at least 2 years of related work experience. Experience in nuclear operations in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear technician or power plant operator or experience working as a janitor at a nuclear facility may be helpful.Important Qualities
Decisionmaking skills. Hazmat removal workers identify materials in a spill or leak and choose the proper method for cleaning up.
Detail oriented. Hazmat removal workers must follow safety procedures and keep records of their work. For example, workers must track the amount and type of waste disposed, equipment or chemicals used, and number of containers stored.
Math skills. Workers must be able to perform basic mathematical conversions and calculations when mixing solutions that neutralize contaminants.
Mechanical skills. Hazmat removal workers may operate heavy equipment to clean contaminated sites.
Physical stamina. Workers may have to stand and scrub equipment or surfaces for hours at a time to remove toxic materials.
Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the right jobs to get there.
As you move along in your career, you may start taking on more responsibilities or notice that you've taken on a leadership role. Using our career map, an asbestos worker can determine their career goals through the career progression. For example, they could start out with a role such as driver, progress to a title such as foreman and then eventually end up with the title warehouse manager.
|Top Careers Before Asbestos Worker|
Forklift Operator9.6 %
Machine Operator7.4 %
Warehouse Worker7.4 %
|Top Careers After Asbestos Worker|
Machine Operator8.1 %
Forklift Operator6.9 %
Tell us your goals and we'll match you with the rights job to get there.
|Job TitleCompany||Company||Start Date||Salary|
State of Oklahoma
State of Oklahoma
Orion Environmental Inc.
Orion Environmental Inc.
Air Clean Environmental Inc.
Air Clean Environmental Inc.
Use Zippia's Salary Calculator to see how your pay matches up.
Hispanic or Latino19.5 %
Black or African American10.5 %
|Foreign Languages Spoken|
Herkimer County Community College8.8 %
Monroe Community College8.8 %
Texas Southern University5.9 %
Ashford University5.9 %
General Studies10.3 %
Criminal Justice7.5 %
Environmental Science5.6 %
High School Diploma55.9 %
The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 30.0% of asbestos workers listed asbestos on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and math skills are important as well.