Enforcement and Inspection

Best Practices for a Smooth Inspection

Before the inspector arrives, keep in mind that inspections are performed to find out what is being done wrong or not at all. Many facility operators and environmental managers have long-standing relationships with regulators and may feel an inspection is more a friendly get together than a serious review of compliance activities. It is best to be less collegial and more professional, respecting an inspector’s right to do his or her job, while knowing your legal rights and responsibilities to protect your facility.

To eliminate any confusion right from the start, be sure to inform all front-desk personnel of the inspection and instruct them in the exact procedure for contacting the appointed representative. Be sure that all involved personnel, including the representative, understand they should be cooperative but should not volunteer information.

The representative should request the inspector’s credentials and make a copy of them before proceeding. If you have any doubts, contact the applicable state or regional agency office to confirm the inspector’s identity. Do not hesitate to contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to verify credentials of anyone who presents a business card printed with “EPA” or “OSHA,” but does not provide other credentials.

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Also, before beginning the inspection, ask the inspector what the purpose of the inspection is, what standard or standards apply, and if the inspection will include documentation review. This will help you determine what areas of the facility to include in the inspection and what documents to provide. If the inspection is based on a complaint, ask to see a copy of the complaint. At this time you should also record the names of all persons taking part in the inspection.

Other aspects to consider before beginning the inspection may include:

  • Notifying your attorney,
  • Deciding whether or not to insist on a search warrant, and
  • Discouraging the recording of the inspection.

When you are ready to begin the inspection, take the most direct route to the area(s) the inspector needs to see and restrict the inspection to the stated purpose and legally required documentation. In the event that the inspector takes samples, be prepared to take duplicate samples at the same time and label them. Similarly, if the inspector takes photos, take photos for your own records or request in writing that the inspector provide copies of his/her photos. All aspects of the inspection should be noted in writing as the inspection takes place.

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 If a violation is cited and can be corrected on the spot, do so right then but be sure to note all violations in writing. For other violations, ask the inspector to suggest ways to correct violations or deficiencies and also make note of these.

Following the physical inspection, request a closing conference if the inspector does not offer one. Use this opportunity to:

  • Address each violation;
  • Ask for inspector’s input regarding corrective actions;
  • Request an explanation of your rights and responsibilities for each citation;
  • Ask any additional questions regarding violations, citations, or related issues;
  • Request copies of photos and results of sampling and monitoring data gathered during the inspection; and 
  • Request a copy of the final inspection report and form when it is prepared.

Upon completion of the inspection, take immediate action to correct violations in compliance with regulations. Next, gather all notes and observations from the inspection, and prepare your own written facility inspection report that includes all violations cited and confirmation of promised changes for violations and corrective actions.

Before citations and violation notices arrive, proactively write to the inspecting agency, and provide a list of all violations you have already corrected. Be sure to act on each violation with appropriate advice and supervision, and involve your supervisor and attorney in the final resolution of each citation.