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Hazardous Material Workers

At a Glance

  • Often called "HAZMAT" workers
  • Wear safety gear from respirators to body suits
  • Usually work in teams
  • May travel to other locations for emergency clean-ups
  • Train through a 32-40 hour formal training program
  • Need additional training to remove nuclear waste

Career summary

Hazardous material workers remove and dispose of harmful materials.

The duties of hazardous material (HAZMAT) workers depend on the type of materials they work with. In many cases, HAZMAT workers obtain specialized training to remove specific materials. Some use chemicals to remove lead paint on buildings. HAZMAT workers who remove asbestos use tools to scrape or vacuum asbestos from buildings. Others specialize in removing moldy materials like wood or carpet. Others use waste-eating bacteria to dispose of certain chemicals. Some remove hazardous materials from old computers. Others respond to accidents, spills, and releases. All HAZMAT workers sort materials from waste for recycling.

Because removing hazardous materials is dangerous, workers must follow safety standards and work together as a team. They must follow rules, act quickly, and follow the chain of command.

All HAZMAT workers wear protective gear, but the type of safety gear varies with the job. Those who need the most protection wear full body suits and respirators. Other workers wear less gear, but most wear some type of respirator that filters the air they breathe.

Treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) workers transport hazardous materials to treatment and disposal sites. They drive trucks and operate cranes and forklifts to move materials. They may build scaffolding or containment areas to reach and store materials. They also organize materials at disposal sites and label all items.

There are three levels of HAZMAT workers who remove radioactive materials:

Decontamination technicians

Decontamination technicians use brooms, mops, and other tools to clean contaminated areas. They also remove items to be cleaned or disposed of.

Radiation protection technicians

Radiation protection technicians use radiation survey meters to locate and evaluate contaminated materials. They use high-pressure cleaning equipment to wash areas, and also package materials for disposal.

Decommissioning and decontamination workers

Decommissioning and decontamination (D&D) workers remove radioactive materials from nuclear facilities and power plants. These workers sometimes build concrete storage boxes. They transfer radioactive materials from the site to the cement boxes or other storage containers.

Related careers

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to hazardous material workers.

Common work activities

Hazardous material workers perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, hazardous material workers:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Hazardous material workers frequently:

It is important for hazardous material workers to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for hazardous material workers to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Hazardous material workers need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Work with things

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a hazardous material worker, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Hazardous material workers must complete a 32-40 hour formal training program. This training is a requirement for the license in asbestos and lead removal. Training includes:

You need additional training if you will work with nuclear waste. This work is called decommissioning and decontamination. These workers also take courses on nuclear material and safety rules. You need about three months to complete all these courses.

In addition, HAZMAT workers are required to take refresher courses every year. They may also need medical monitoring, depending on what material they work with.

On-the-job training

Most of the skills that hazardous material workers have are learned on the job. Training generally lasts up to three months.

Military training

Some branches of the military train people to be environmental health and safety specialists. This occupation includes hazardous material workers. Training lasts 11 to 19 weeks, depending on your specialty. Additional training occurs on the job.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate. You should consider taking Algebra and Geometry as your math courses and Chemistry and Physics as your science courses.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers require applicants to have a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers may also require hazardous material workers to be in good physical shape. This is because workers may need to lift heavy objects.

Employers look for workers who are comfortable working with hazardous materials. They also look for workers who are able to do basic math conversions and calculations.

Cost to workers

Workers may need to purchase work clothing and footwear. Union workers pay an initiation fee and regular membership dues.


Federal law requires that all workers at hazardous waste cleanup sites receive a minimum of 40 hours of training in health and safety issues related to the hazardous waste industry. Courses are available from the Environmental Protection Agency, some unions, and many private sources. Workers engaged in asbestos removal projects must be certified by the State. Certification requirements include:

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Division of Occupational Safety & Health (external link)

PO Box 44650
Olympia, WA 98504-4614


Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Hazardous materials removal workers (SOC 47-4041)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $17.11 $20.00 $28.82 $38.34 $46.33
Monthly $2,965 $3,466 $4,995 $6,644 $8,029
Yearly $35,590 $41,600 $59,940 $79,750 $96,360
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Monthly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
Yearly (1) (1) (1) (1) (1)
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $18.34 $23.91 $35.20 $45.36 $49.62
Monthly $3,178 $4,144 $6,100 $7,861 $8,599
Yearly $38,161 $49,721 $73,214 $94,347 $103,207
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $17.18 $19.32 $27.54 $35.09 $38.53
Monthly $2,977 $3,348 $4,773 $6,081 $6,677
Yearly $35,747 $40,189 $57,276 $72,980 $80,139
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $16.62 $17.89 $20.03 $25.41 $30.01
Monthly $2,880 $3,100 $3,471 $4,404 $5,201
Yearly $34,575 $37,195 $41,667 $52,867 $62,427
    Vancouver Hourly $15.25 $16.99 $19.73 $26.13 $32.64
Monthly $2,643 $2,944 $3,419 $4,528 $5,657
Yearly $31,716 $35,339 $41,042 $54,346 $67,883
United States Hourly $13.42 $16.29 $20.21 $27.51 $36.46
Monthly $2,326 $2,823 $3,502 $4,767 $6,319
Yearly $27,910 $33,880 $42,030 $57,230 $75,840

(1) Wage estimate is not available.

Wages vary by the type of material handled. Treatment, storage, and disposal workers earn slightly more than asbestos and lead workers. People who work at nuclear power plants or with radiation tend to earn the highest wages.

Hazardous material workers usually receive benefits. Typical benefits include paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Some employers also offer a retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers (SOC 47-4041)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 1,271 8.9% 16.1% 180
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 20 15.0% 13.4% 3
    Benton and Franklin Counties 595 8.1% 15.0% 82
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 42 4.8% 11.9% 6
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 45 17.8% 15.2% 7
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 35 5.7% 14.1% 5
    King County 266 17.7% 19.6% 44
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 60 25.0% 13.8% 11
    Pierce County 132 1.5% 15.2% 16
    Snohomish County 32 15.6% 12.4% 5
    Spokane County 16 12.5% 13.9% 2
United States 45,900 10.7% 5.2% 6,600

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will remain steady as hazmat sites recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continue to be cleaned up. Many nuclear power plants are also expected to close down and workers will be needed to decontaminate equipment, sites, and buildings.

Limiting growth for this occupation are cuts in government budgets. Also, fewer buildings have asbestos that needs to be removed.

Demand for hazardous material workers is not affected by the economy. Many job openings will be created as current workers retire or transfer to other occupations.

Other resources

Air and Waste Management Association (external link)
Koppers Building
436 Seventh Avenue, Suite 2100
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
Environmental Protection Agency (external link)
Park Place Building
1200 - 6th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Environmental Technology Council (external link)
1112 - 16th Street, Suite 420
Washington, DC 20036
Nuclear Energy Institute (external link)
1201 F Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20004
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (external link)
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, DC 20555-0001
Washington Business Week (external link)
PO Box 1170
Renton, WA 98057
Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council (external link)
906 Columbia Street SW, Suite 107
Olympia, WA 98501


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster