Hazardous materials removal workers held about 43,700 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most hazardous materials removal workers were as follows:
Waste management and remediation services
Working conditions vary with the hazardous material being removed. For example, workers removing lead or asbestos often work in confined spaces or at great heights and bend or stoop to remove the material. Emergency and disaster response workers may work outside in all weather conditions.
Asbestos and lead abatement workers typically work in buildings that are being renovated or torn down. Completing projects often requires night and weekend work to meet deadlines.
Treatment, storage, and disposal workers are usually employed at facilities such as landfills, incinerators, and industrial furnaces.
Decommissioning and decontamination workers and technicians work at nuclear facilities and electric power plants.
Injuries and Illnesses
Cleaning or removing hazardous materials is dangerous, and workers must follow specific safety procedures to avoid injuries and illnesses. They usually work in teams and follow instructions from a team leader or site supervisor.
Workers wear coveralls, gloves, shoe covers, and safety glasses or goggles to reduce their exposure to harmful materials. Some must wear fully closed protective suits, which may be hot and uncomfortable, for several hours at a time. Hazmat removal workers are required to wear respirators to protect themselves from airborne particles or noxious gases in extremely toxic cleanups. Lead abatement workers wear personal air monitors that measure the amount of lead exposure.
Most hazmat removal workers are employed full time. Overtime and shift work are common, especially for emergency and disaster response workers.
Some hazmat removal workers travel to areas affected by a disaster. During a cleanup, workers may be away from home for several days or weeks until the project is completed.
Hazmat removal workers at nuclear facilities are busiest during periods of refueling and may experience unemployment at other times.