Some companies, some industries, some locations just seem to be of greater interest to one or more of the regulatory agencies: the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) of the US Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), or the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) of the US Department of Transportation. It may be that one of these agencies is a common visitor to your property, but others you see less frequent or not at all. While being inspected by one agency – let’s say OSHA – you may think you need not worry about compliance with the hazardous waste regulations enforced by the US EPA; this is not so. In this US EPA press release, the owner of a New Hampshire foundry faces criminal charges for the storage of hazardous waste for greater than 90 days without a permit. There is nothing significant about the violation or the charge, what is significant is the fact that the chain of events was started when the violation was noted during OSHA inspections in April and August of 2009. This is no accident, since 1991 the US EPA and OSHA have assisted each other in identifying and reporting potential violations of their respective regulations under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
The purpose of the MOU is to establish and improve the working relationship between the US EPA & OSHA in order to improve their ability to detect potential violations and enforce their respective regulations. The agencies agree to the fullest possible coordination between them at all levels which includes “referrals of alleged violations, and related matters concerning compliance and law enforcement…” To do this US EPA and OSHA will exchange names and phone numbers of appropriate offices and personnel and keep such information up to date. They will also conduct periodic training programs for each other’s personnel on the requirements of their respective regulations. In short, US EPA will train OSHA personnel on what potential environmental violations they should look for when inspecting your company. OSHA will do the same for US EPA personnel.
Under the MOU, an OSHA inspector must inform the US EPA if a potential environmental violation comes to their attention. In turn, the US EPA must respond to such referrals: “EPA shall respond to referrals from OSHA, and OSHA shall respond to referrals from EPA…” The agencies will have periodic meetings to track the progress of actions taken on these referrals. You can expect US EPA to follow-up if OSHA informs them of a potential violation.
The MOU goes on to indicate that US EPA and OSHA may conduct joint inspections or separate. If an alleged violation is found during a separate inspection, a referral shall be made. Inspections may be part of an annual workplan developed by the agencies or ad hoc following an accident, injury, or reported violation.
No one wants a regulatory violation found during an inspection. Even less do we want an unsafe or unwise situation to result in someone getting hurt or damaging the environment. Better to know the regulations, comply with them, and keep everyone safe and the grass green. My open enrollment training events will help you to do just that. If you prefer, I can come to your site and train all of your employees in one day for a flat fee of $1,749. Please contact me to discuss your training options further.