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Cross-Agency Enforcement: Sometimes Inspections by the EPA Can Lead to Inspections by OSHA and Vice Versa!

inspectionPenalties and compliance upgrades can get really costly when an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) leads to and inspection by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the other way around. Many regulations by the EPA and OSHA are similar because it’s OSHA’s mission to protect workers and EPA’s mission to protect public health and the environment and those responsibilities can intersect.  So OSHA and the EPA work closely when regulations cover the same activities to ensure that both agencies are meeting the legal mandates required by the many laws, regulations and standards they are responsible to enforce.

Examples of the EPA and OSHA Working Together…

The EPA and OSHA Work Together to Prevent Accidental Chemical Releases 

Accidental chemical releases can cause injury to workers, the public and/or the environment so the EPA and OSHA work together when this is a problem for a company. In mid 1996 EPA and OSHA jointly agreed to the Strategy for Coordinated EPA/OSHA Implementation of the Chemical Accident Prevention Requirements of the Clean Air Act of 1990. Under section 304 of the Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments of 1990, the agreement made OSHA responsible for protecting workers via the Process Safety Management (PSM) Standard (29 CFR 1910.119). At the same time, under CAA section 112(r), the EPA was delegated responsibility for protecting the public and the environment through the Risk Management Program (RMP) rule (40 CFR 68). The agencies not only cooperate in preventing accidental chemical releases but the EPA event went as far as to incorporate OSHA’s PSM standard as the chemical accident program for those facilities subject to both rules.

Memorandas of Understanding (MOUs)

A 1991 MOU pledges broad cooperation and joint enforcement assistance across many laws, with the provision that “There will be the fullest possible cooperation and coordination between EPA and OSHA, at all organizational levels, in developing and carrying out training, data and information exchange, technical and professional assistance, referrals of alleged violations, and related matters concerning compliance and law enforcement activity to ensure the health and well-being of the Nation’s workforce, the general public, and the environment.”

In December 1996, another MOU pledged cooperation between EPA and OSHA at chemical accident investigations, and stated, “EPA and OSHA will usually be notified of chemical accidents or releases through the National Response Center (NRC). In addition, EPA will notify OSHA and the NRC of any major chemical accident or release of which it becomes aware through sources other than the NRC. Similarly, OSHA will notify EPA and the NRC of any major chemical accident or release reported by a party other than the NRC. Such notification will be made immediately after one of the agencies has received such a report.” Moreover, this MOU also states that, when an accident is transportation-related, both EPA and OSHA will also cooperate with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)which has jurisdiction in such cases.

Investigations and Information Are Being Readily Shared Between the Agencies  

Both agencies keep their autonomy and enforce their own programs only in their jurisdictions, but the EPA and OSHA relationship is close and includes sharing information about compliance with RMP, PSM and related regulations. That kind of cooperation makes it easy to understand how an inspection by one agency must lead to an inspection by the other if applicable or potential violations are noted in an inspection.

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