Inspection Process

General Information on the Inspection Process

SCAQMD Inspectors use their observations of industrial and commercial processes and equipment to determine compliance with air quality rules and regulations, policies and state law (California Health and Safety Code).  Although each inspection is unique, a series of general guidelines govern inspection procedures in the field. The typical inspection can be broken down into the following components:

  • Pre-Inspection Activities
    These are the activities conducted by the inspector in preparation for the inspection which include the review of: the facility's permits to operate, the facility's compliance history, and other applicable requirements.
  • The Inspection
    While in the company of a facility representative, the Inspector will tour the facility and make observations of equipment, processes and employee practices to determine if facility is operating in compliance with applicable permit and clean air requirements.
  • Closing Conference
    Conducted before leaving the facility, the Inspectors usually discuss their findings with facility representatives during a closing conference, and later document these findings in written inspection reports.

Typically, SCAQMD earmarks facilities for inspection well ahead of time, however, an air quality complaint received from the public may prompt an unannounced inspection of a facility.

What happens before an inspection?

Inspections are generally unannounced. Before SCAQMD Inspectors enter a facility, they review the facility’s files to become familiar with its equipment, processes, emissions, and compliance history, and to identify the rules and regulations, and permit conditions that govern its operation. 

As Inspectors approach a facility, they make general observations about the immediate surroundings to look for evidence of fugitive emissions (odors, paint overspray, vegetation damage, etc.). They also look for excess visible emissions (PDF, 12kb) produced by the operation. 

What happens during an inspection?

AQMD Inspectors are authorized to enter and inspect facilities pursuant to the provisions of California Health and Safety Code Section 41510. Upon entry, the Inspector presents proper AQMD identification, then informs a facility representative of the purpose and scope of the inspection and the procedures that will be followed. During this opening conference, Inspectors typically describe new requirements, fees (PDF, 300kb), or other issues related to compliance, and answer any preliminary questions before being escorted by the facility representative through the facility.

During the inspection itself, the Inspector looks to see if the proper permits (photocopies are acceptable) are posted near the equipment. Inspectors may ask the facility representative to describe the types of equipment at the facility, and how each type is used and maintained. All conditions, practices, and other relevant observations are noted, and those which are unusual or which may create problems are recorded and described in detail.

Inspectors frequently request copies of production or usage records, and may also take samples or photographs as appropriate to further support their observations of facility operations. Throughout the inspection, Inspectors explain the inspection process and respond within their ability and authority to questions raised by the facility representative.

The Inspector gathers any other information needed to complete the overall determination of compliance. Before leaving the facility, the Inspectors usually discuss their findings with facility representatives during a closing conference (post inspection), and later document these findings in written inspection reports.

The Closing Conference

Once the inspection has concluded and the inspector has made a compliance determination, a closing conference will typically be held with the facility representative to discuss the inspector's findings.  The closing conference provides the inspector the opportunity to:

  • identify and fill in any gaps in the information collected;
  • review applicable rule requirements;
  • discuss any non-compliant or other problematic areas, and issue any compliance notices, as appropriate
  • suggest available resources such as technical publications, and AQMD's Small Business Assistance program
  • ensure that the facility representative understands all of the information provided and address any questions the company may have.

Since AQMD inspectors are often the only direct contact between the AQMD and the regulated industry, the closing conference provides an ideal opportunity to provide the company with the available assistance to operate in compliance.