ALP: An inspector with the EPA is at my front door. What do I do?
As most EPA inspections are unannounced, it is essential to prepare a game plan ahead of time. The company should identify a short list of employees authorized to represent it in an inspection. The representatives should be management employees familiar with the company’s operations and environmental affairs, and trained to handle an inspection.
When EPA inspectors first arrive at your facility, gather initial background information from the inspectors. Ask for credentials and identify all people in the group, including names, titles and organizations. If any of the inspectors are with organizations that suggest it may be a criminal investigation, contact legal counsel immediately. Find out what precipitated the investigation – routine, specific event, complaint, etc. Inquire about what procedures will be followed during the inspection, such as what areas will be inspected, what records will be reviewed, and whether samples will be collected. This is also the appropriate time to inform the inspectors of the company’s safety requirements.
During the inspection, stay with the inspectors at all times – do not allow any inspector to wander around the facility unguided. Unlike OSHA, an EPA inspector does not have a right to question employees outside of management’s presence. Take notes of everything an inspector does and asks. If samples are taken, note the collection process and intended analysis, and obtain split samples. If an inspector takes photographs or videos, do the same. When answering questions, attempt to answer fully, but do not speculate. Likewise, do not volunteer information that is not requested.
At the completion of the inspection, request an exit interview to find out the inspectors’ thoughts, whether they identified any deficiencies, and whether any follow-up procedures or documents are requested. Do not make any admissions during the exit interview.
After the inspectors have left, fully document all inspection events and conversations in a written report. In addition, create a listing of all documents shared with the inspectors.