This provision requires an independent third-party to conduct a compliance audit at a facility if there has been a reportable accident, or if an implementing agency determines that a third-party audit is necessary, based on information about the facility or about a prior third-party audit at the facility. The final rule contains criteria for auditor competence and independence.
The owner or operator must also engage a third-party auditor, and complete the audit within 12 months of when:
- an implementing agency determines that conditions at the facility could lead to an accidental release of a regulated substance; or
- when a previous third-party audit failed to meet the competency or independence criteria specified in the rule.
The third-party audit may be conducted by a third-party auditor or a team of auditors led by a third-party auditor. This final rule requirement brings a level of independence to the audit process while the audit team flexibility provides due consideration to a facility’s professional personnel involvement in the audit. The team must be led by an independent third-party but may include experts from the company who understand the chemical plant design and processes.
The benefit of the third-party audit is to provide the owners and operators information to determine whether or not facility procedures and practices to comply with the prevention program requirements of the RMP rule, are adequate and being followed.
EPA notes that some qualifying facilities are already required to conduct compliance audits every three years. The rule does not change the requirement that RMP facilities regularly conduct RMP compliance audits. It does, however specify that, in specific situations, those audits be performed by a third-party or a team led by a third-party (pursuant to the schedule in §§ 68.58(h) and/or 68.79(h) of the rule).