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Companies and others subject to the law regularly treat agency inspections too casually. Environmental enforcement is on the upswing. Government agencies plan to increase inspections, not only for routine compliance but also for gaining information for prosecution. Agency inspectors should, and will, use every lawful means to prosecute violators. At the same time, business and landowners should be aware of their rights and duties regarding inspections. In most situations, it is best to accommodate inspections as to minimize confrontation, memorialize lists of violations, and document prompt and continued compliance. Consequently, it makes sense for regulated parties to be prepared to protect themselves against unfair or illegal searches. Here are some practical tips for handling agency inspections in a businesslike way:

  • Designate a manager (and backup) to handle inspections. Instruct the receptionist to notify this person of any inspection.
  • Watch for any out-of-the ordinary, non-routine inspection, especially by a team of agency personnel.
  • Ask for the purpose of the inspection. Determine for what parts of the facility that access is sought. Ask if the inspection will include documents.
  • Request the inspector's credentials and copy them.
  • Decide whether to invoke a right to insist on a search warrant.
  • Notify your environmental attorney.
  • Record the names of all persons conducting or attending the inspection.
  • Discourage tape recordings.
  • Duplicate sampling at the same time and label them.
  • Take duplicate photographs or arrange for duplicates to be provided from photos taken by the inspector.
  • Restrict the inspection to the stated purposes and legally-required reports and files.
  • Protect trade secrets and other proprietary information by a letter agreement before disclosure.
  • Inquire if any violations or deficiencies have been found by the inspector
  • Request a copy of the inspection form and the final report when prepared.
  • Prepare your own inspection report. Acknowledge findings of the inspector and confirm promised operation changes in writing.
  • Watch for receipt of violation notices, abatement orders, and other citations as a result of the inspection.
  • Before you receive these citations, write to the agency to state the violations you already corrected.
  • Act on the inspection results with proper advice and supervision.
  • Check your final resolution of any citations with your supervisor and environmental attorney.

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