Regardless of whether government inspections are scheduled or unannounced, they are inevitably a source of stress for facility owners.
If you’re unprepared, you could leave your facility vulnerable to costly violations and more frequent inspections in the future. And even if you think you’re prepared, chances are there’s still some aspect of the process you’ll wish you’d thought about in retrospect.
That’s why taking the time for pre-planning and preparing for an inspection is so important to the continued operations of your facility. When you’re as prepared as possible for an inspector to walk through the door, you stand a greater chance of getting through the inspection with positive results and minimal to no violations.
Here are three key areas to focus your inspection preparation efforts:
CONDUCTING A SELF-INSPECTION
Before an inspector comes to ensure you’re complying with the regulations for their specific agency, it’s important to take the time to conduct a self-inspection. During this process, you can walk through everything an inspector would do to see how your facility would fare. This allows you to catch and correct any slip ups before there are any consequences.
If you don’t feel up to the task of conducting a self-inspection, you can hire a consultant to conduct it on your behalf. That way, you’ll get a true outsider perspective who is on your side and won’t have to worry about potentially overlooking important details.
PREPARING YOUR PEOPLE
Every single person at your facility should know exactly what protocol to follow if an inspector arrives. Establish a clear plan that if an inspector shows up unannounced, they are to be escorted to the main office. No employees who aren’t prepared and trained to walk the inspector through the purpose of their visit should attempt to do so. This could lead to giving the inspector information they don’t need or you don’t want them to know. Instead, an assigned management escort should be designated to walk the inspector through their visit.
It’s also essential that all of your employees know not to speak to an inspector without the management escort present. An inspector may attempt to talk to your employees and ask questions while being escorted to the office. Train your employees to politely decline to answer any questions — walking the fine line of accommodating the inspector, but adhering to protocol.
As you’re preparing your employees, remind them that inspectors may not behave like you expect them to. Some may not come in the front door. Some may issue an order to the first person they see, and then leave. For instance, in New York City, the fire department is allowed to walk in any door and issue an order to any employee they see. That order is then binding for your facility, so your employees need to know how to handle that situation should it arise.
Lastly, make sure you inform your employees about their rights pertaining to an inspection. For instance, they may have the right to refuse an inspection. However, since the inspection will have to be rescheduled, this is not advised. An inspector who has to return to your facility after being turned away once is more likely to conduct your inspection with increased scrutiny.
By establishing these protocols — and reviewing them frequently — you can have confidence that your employees know what to do when an inspector arrives.
PREPARING YOUR FACILITY
The best rule of thumb is to go into each day assuming your facility is going to be inspected. With this mindset, you won’t have to worry about being caught unprepared by a surprise inspection.
In order to have a prepared facility, there are a few items you’ll want to keep on hand:
- An inspector/visitor log. On the first page of the log, write, “All inspectors/visitors are required to log in and out in this book.” Then, prepare columns for date, time arrived, name, badge number, agency, purpose, signature, time left and comments. This ensures you will always have accurate information readily available.
- PPE(s) and important documents. You’ll need to have all personal protective equipment used by your employees on hand and available for the inspector to see. Additionally, make sure all important documents are well-organized and easy to find quickly.
- Plastic and glass sampling containers. If your facility has a wastewater permit, you’ll want to keep sampling equipment on hand. This allows you to take a sample at the same time as the inspector to ensure accuracy.
- A camera. The inspector will likely take pictures during the inspection. By having a camera readily available, you can take pictures at the same time and have dated proof in case you need to later file an appeal. While you can certainly use your cell phone camera, it doesn’t hurt to have a designated camera with fresh batteries available to grab in a pinch.
First impressions with inspectors can help set the tone of the entire inspection. By preparing for an inspection with your employees, you’ll give the first impression of being confident and capable. This can help take the pressure off of random inspections and allow you to get back to the business of running your facility. Stay tuned to learn Walden’s best tips for how to prepare for and survive an inspection.
Click here to download our full inspection preparation guide, “When Government Visits: How to Prepare For and Survive an Inspection.”
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