Due to its complex nature, Tier II reporting for EPCRA can be an arduous task for EHS or operations managers to complete. Running the risk of noncompliance can have severe consequences and involve costly penalties as well as long-lasting reputational damage.
Hundreds or thousands of facilities across multiple states can be a nightmare for EHS leaders to manage. Not only is it time-consuming to gather data, validate it, and process the required reports, it’s even harder to make sure every report is accurate.
EPCRA compliance is the law
Tier II reporting for hazardous chemicals is required by law. Organizations have no choice but to comply, otherwise they run the risk of noncompliance—which can include financial penalties, reputational damage, or even operational stoppage if violations reach a critical stage. Fortunately, enterprise technology systems and methodologies for environmental compliance exist today to mitigate these risks and ensure the Tier II reporting process is streamlined and accurate.
Here are eight ways to overcome the challenges of Tier II reporting, including implementing digital solutions, so your organization can stay up-to-date with local requirements, gather data early, and avoid compliance oversights.
Steer clear of common environmental compliance oversights
1. Verify and report seasonal or interim chemicals onsite for R&D purposes, onsite projects, provisional work, cleaning, or specialty products.
According to EPCRA Section 312, a business must report any hazardous chemical present at a facility—during any given time of the year—that exceeds the threshold planning quantity (TPQ) for substances considered to be extremely hazardous. Organizations that don’t report hazardous chemicals that exceed the state or federal threshold and are onsite even for short periods of time are subject to non-compliance. Make sure to confirm and account for all interim or seasonal chemicals onsite.
2. Ensure that GHS-compliant SDSs are up-to-date before reporting season.
While seemingly straightforward, outdated GHS-compliant safety data sheets (SDS) happen to be one of the most common errors in annual Tier II reporting. OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS)—in compliance with the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS)—instructs that an SDS must be revised within three months of a chemical manufacturer or employer obtaining new information surrounding the hazards of a chemical.
To comply with EPCRA regulations, ensure that all facilities required to report have an updated SDS that fulfills GHS requirements. Additionally, make sure revised SDSs are sent to all agencies that possess the original SDS. By doing so earlier on, you can reduce the heavy lifting of Tier II preparation down the road.
Stay up-to-date with local Tier II reporting requirements
3. Recognize when county-specific or state-specific reporting requirements apply in locations where you oversee facilities.
Be aware of Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) and State Emergency Response Commissions (SERC) minutes that pertain to sites you oversee. The EPA’s State Tier II Reporting Requirements and Procedures website is a great resource for this. Additionally, make sure to closely document city or state subtleties such as reportable units of measure, reportable quantities, and more to avoid noncompliance.
Make the leap to digital formats
4. Maintain an up-to-date contacts file in one location.
Upon submitting Tier II reports, facility-level emergency contacts are often left unattended, not accurately verified, or not updated. This information is easier to obtain and update when maintained electronically, saving your organization time in not having to track down information. Make sure to keep an updated contacts file in one location to easily get information when needed.
5. Keep site maps readily accessible, and update them when your facility experiences change.
Traditionally, to indicate the location of chemicals in a facility, site maps were printed out so they could be updated manually. By digitizing site maps, changes can be made and tracked electronically, overcoming the longstanding practice of marking up maps manually when changes occur. Digitized site maps are far more efficient with their accessibility on laptops or mobile devices, ensuring they’re always accessible to update when needed.
6. Make data more accessible by centralizing digital records electronically.
EHS teams can organize reporting data to be more accessible to those who need the information via private clouds, SaaS-based platforms, or data networks by centralizing digital records electronically. This makes it easier to locate and share data quickly, maintain seasonal information, and perform QA/QC processes to validate compliance records and ensure their accuracy. More importantly, digitization helps prevent human errors that often occur with spreadsheets, e-mails, binders full of paper records, and manual cut-and-paste practices. As a result, data becomes more trusted and “intelligent” to remain equipped for review when the calendar year starts.
7. Certify that facility site contacts have access to electronic resources on Tier II requirements to inform you of new changes.
Persons listed as contacts for facilities must be knowledgeable of all hazardous chemicals onsite, as well as the content and accuracy of all resulting Tier II reports, to answer potential questions from the LEPC, local fire department, or SERC. Contacts should also be aware of and understand regulatory compliance updates in their facility’s respective state and community with compliance always top of mind.
Collect Tier II data in advance
8. Avoid collecting compliance data last minute at the end of the year.
The Tier II reporting lifecycle commonly falls into four stages: data collection , data validation, data input, and data submissions. A good, standard practice for organizations is to have data ready for review at the beginning of the new year, especially when considering the reporting life cycle’s data collection and validation segments. This helps streamline the process where data is collected between July and November to go through validation in the following months.
Knowing and understanding why Tier II reporting is required empowers companies to better prepare and overcome the challenges that can arise along the way. These eight tips can help you survive the adversities of Tier II reporting by ensuring local and state guidelines are met and supporting your business to avoid the consequences of non-compliance.
Megan Walters is the VP of Compliance & Customer Success at Encamp. Prior to Encamp, she was an Environmental Scientist at GHD, Environmental Manager at Micronutrients, and Corporate Account Coordinator for Heritage Environmental Services. She is a certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer® (CESCO), an EHSMS Internal Auditor, a certified Hazardous Materials Manager, eRailSafe certified, a HAZWOPER 40 Hour – Emergency Response Technician, and skilled in RCRA, DOT, and ISO 14001.