Environmental Inspections

Written by Shirley Parker
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Environmental inspections and investigations are a critical part of protecting the environment and the health and safety of the public, as well as those workers immediately involved in the operation of the industrial plant, dairy, business, hospital or other institution. Depending on the government agency that sent the inspectors, they will be looking for compliance with environmental regulations regarding the handling, storage and disposal of hazardous waste in manufacturing operations, or in other areas, such as industrial hygiene, food processing, and agriculture. Owners and operators must comply with reasonable requests of the inspectors, who carry the weight of law with them.

If investigators have arrived (they may be the same people who conduct inspections), they will be gathering evidence about chemical spills, radioactive waste, leaking underground or above ground storage tanks, fecal contamination, use of banned pesticides, improper handling of biomedical waste, overheated discharge into streams or lakes, or any other possible or reported violation of regulations. In this case, they are gathering evidence where a prosecution is likely, perhaps against an individual, but more often against the company. Investigators may have a search warrant.

An inspection may become an investigation at any point in time. Due to legal ramifications, company owners or corporate management usually have specific rules of their own that employees must follow when inspectors or investigators visit. These include recording the name, title, badge number and agency address of the individual. Also, the authorized employee must find out if the visit is an inspection or an investigation, notifying corporate legal immediately if the latter. A company official always accompanies an inspector or investigator, keeps careful notes of anything that is taken, but is not permitted to interfere in any way or create obstructions when samples or photographs are taken or records examined. Where possible, he or she provides photocopies. Depending on the jurisdiction, the company official will be informed of his or her legal rights.

Environmental Inspections by Home Buyers

Home buyers should also consider making an environmental inspection a prerequisite to any home purchase. Black mold, lead, radon, electro magnetic fields, or other hazards are only a few things that could be present. Storage tanks, such as those for home heating oil, may pose a major legal liability in spite of insurance, so should be tested for leakage, before a home is purchased.

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