Part 1: Prior To An Inspection
EPA fines and penalties for violations of Clean Air Act (CAA) Title VI refrigerant regulations are severe. Civil penalties include up to $27,500 per day for each violation. Criminal penalties include up to five years federal imprisonment for willful violations or for knowingly violating regulations, and two years imprisonment for submission of false records.
EPA routinely conducts unannounced, or 'surprise inspections' to verify compliance requirements. In addition, EPA pays up to $10,000 to individuals reporting violations that result in successful court cases or convictions under the 'Citizen Award Program'. EPA inspections focus on identifying facilities and industries that are not following required Section 608, and 609 refrigerant service practices and record-keeping requirements. This concentrated effort includes targeted inspections on facilities selected from EPA's industry database as well as violation tips.
With this in mind, it is prudent business practice to take all reasonable measures to be aware of and to comply with applicable regulations.
In addition, organizations should have a CAA Title VI Refrigerant Regulations Compliance Plan in place and be prepared for an EPA Compliance Enforcement inspection.
PRIOR TO AN INSPECTION
Designate a 'Facility Refrigerant Compliance Manager'
Identify an inspection lead person within your organization who will be the main point of direct communication during an inspection. This person would typically be your designated 'Facility Refrigerant Compliance Manager. This person should have an in-depth knowledge of the facility, the applicable regulations, the organization's current refrigerant handling processes and procedures, and the organization's compliance history and status. This person should also have an ability to deal successfully with people in potentially adverse or uncomfortable situations.
Documentation and Record-Keeping
Since CAA Title VI refrigerant regulations compliance is primarily enforced through record-keeping and reporting requirements, you should compile accurate records and organize a filing system. This should be a formal record-keeping program that requires everyone in the organization to follow the same processes. Records should be maintained on refrigerant handling from their point of purchase through their use or disposal. Records also need to be kept for all service work performed on equipment containing refrigerant, regardless of the system's size, or amount of refrigerant in the system. Although the EPA only requires specific service records on appliances with more than 50 lbs of refrigerant, there are many other EPA requirements including technician certification levels, documentation of the recovery units used, evacuation levels and recovery, recycling and reclaiming procedures, which would be difficult to show compliance without specific records. Reliable refrigerant inventory tracking, auditing and accountability cannot be maintained without complete refrigerant usage tracking. Finally, tracking all refrigerant usage in your organization will provide consistent and uniform procedures and processes that will reduce the chances of human error and subsequent violations. Documentation and record keeping can be accomplished manually through a detailed paper based tracking system. However, there are software programs available to automate and simplify your refrigerant record-keeping requirements.
Develop an EPA 'Unannounced' Title VI Inspection Plan
Develop an 'inspection plan' to use when EPA personnel show up unannounced at your facility to perform an inspection. The plan should include a list of all requirements that need to be maintained under all applicable laws, regulations and requirements. The plan should identify any specific requirements applicable to your organization, including the location of refrigerant inventories; recovery and recycling equipment; appliances; and documentation and records. The inspection plan should also include the name and phone number of the employee responsible for maintaining any required information or item. The plan should also include guidance for employees on how they should conduct themselves during an inspection.
(This article is part one of a three part series.)