Knock, Knock…Tips for Managing a Regulatory Inspection

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Many state and federal regulatory agencies, including OSHA, EPA, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, may inspect a business with or without advance notice to ensure compliance with applicable rules and regulations. Here are a few tips to help ensure that your inspections go smoothly.

Before an inspection. As the saying goes, to be prepared is half the victory. Plan for an inspection before it occurs:

  • conduct internal audits of compliance
  • keep relevant documents organized
  • e.g. permits, sampling data, compliance documents
  • keep attorney-created documents separate, marked “privileged”
  • create an inspection plan
  • designate a facility contact and his/her backup
  • identify where relevant records are located
  • identify where monitoring and sampling equipment are located
  • have a notepad and camera ready
  • train employees to:
  • know the inspection plan
  • know his/her authority to give information and make commitments
  • notify your legal and environmental teams

With advance notice, consider discussing the inspection with the agency, including:

  • verification of the inspector’s identity
  • purpose: complaint or routine?
  • scope: who/what will be interviewed/ inspected?
  • trade secrets requiring protection
  • required safety procedures

Practice tip: You can refuse entry, but the inspector probably will be back with a warrant, and you may have damaged your working relationship. Consider asking to reschedule an inopportune inspection. Also consider rescheduling if:

  • the inspection requires clearance by Homeland Security
  • there are safety concerns to address
  • you want to speak with legal counsel

During an inspection. Employees should know the procedure for an inspection. Key points are:

  • get the inspector’s card, verify identity and authority
  • request a copy of any warrant
  • take notes on areas inspected, records copied, comments/questions by inspector
  • be truthful, but do not volunteer information and do not guess
  • observe all safety procedures

After an inspection

  • request a closing conference with the inspector
  • what were the results of the inspection
  • what are the next steps
  • prepare an internal memo, including:
  • copies of pre-inspection communications
  • participants of the inspection
  • areas examined
  • employees interviewed
  • information requested
  • testing/sampling performed
  • permits examined
  • violations/problems noted
  • action required
  • involve your legal and environmental teams in compliance investigations
  • create a response plan
  • implement corrective action
  • keep the agency informed of your progress
  • record your efforts, costs expended, and dates of compliance
  • advise the agency of completion


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