Enforcement and Inspection

Should You Disclose Violations?

According to EPA, the company has since corrected all of the violations disclosed, and made improvements to its battery inventory, recordkeeping, and management systems to prevent the reoccurrence of these violations.

EPA wants companies to conduct environmental audits and disclose violations. To encourage this self-policing and better compliance efforts, EPA put together the federal Self-Disclosure and Environmental Audit Policy which provides incentives to companies that voluntarily discover, promptly disclose, and expeditiously correct environmental violations.

What records must be kept on hand and for how long? Find out now with our Free Special Report, Recordkeeping for EHS Managers. Also receive 2 trial issues of BLR’s Environmental Manager’s Compliance Advisor! Download Your Free Report

9 Conditions to Qualify

To take full advantage of the policy, you must meet the following nine conditions:

  1. The violation was discovered through an environmental audit or implementation of an EMS.
  2. The violation was discovered voluntarily.
  3. You disclosed the violation within a maximum of 21 calendar days after you became aware the violation occurred.
  4. You identified and disclosed the violation before a regulating agency inspects your facility.
  5. You must correct the violations within 60 days after notification.
  6. You must agree, in writing, to take steps to prevent the reoccurrence of the  violation.
  7. A similar violation cannot have occurred within the past 3 years.
  8. The violation cannot have resulted in serious actual harm.
  9. You must work with the agency to determine if the Policy applies.

Did you know this? Meeting these policy conditions means EPA may reduce or waive penalties for certain violations.

Even More Benefits to Auditing

Audit policy incentives are not the only good reason companies take the time to audit their compliance efforts. Environmental audits enable businesses and organizations to systematically uncover wasteful and inefficient activities, and minimize or eliminate exposure to regulatory penalties when potential violations are discovered.

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The benefits of environmental audits include:

  • Systematic discovery and correction of operational inefficiencies and waste, which may result in cost savings
  • Defining compliance liabilities, including the limitations of individual and corporate liability
  • Providing a safer workplace
  • Providing information that can be used in the development of a crisis management plan
  • Providing information that can be used to assist in overall corporate planning
  • Elimination or substantial reduction of gravity-based penalties
  • Reduced exposure to criminal prosecution
  • Protection of audits against disclosure for enforcement investigations
  • No routine requests from EPA for audit reports

Audit Checklists

Many EHS managers find using these checklists to be a good way to provide quick reference to important items that should be considered when planning, conducting, and reporting the results of an environmental audit.

Even though there are many benefits to environmental auditing, there are some risks. Before you decide if auditing is right for your company, see tomorrow’s Advisor to weigh the risks against the reward of environmental audits.

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