Targeted Risk Based Approaches to Compliance Assessment
January 2009

 Background to research  

In April 2008, SNIFFER commissioned WRc to undertake a study to improve its understanding of the relationship between inspections1 of regulated operators, and their level of compliance, so that the regulators (the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)) could manage inspection programmes more effectively.  

Currently, the notion that an increased frequency of inspection leads to increased compliance appears to be supported only by anecdotal evidence, and has not been clearly or unequivocally demonstrated. The literature indicates that other aspects could explain the level of, and variation in, compliance: the industrial sector to which the firm belongs, the company’s culture, the size of the company or the site, the time since its last inspection, the presence in the vicinity of a company/site from the same sector which has been found non-compliant, and the time (season) of the inspection.

Objectives of research   

The aim of this project was to improve our understanding of the relationship between inspections and compliance, and to make some suggestions on how the regulators could:   Fundamentally the project sought to answer the question, ‘do more inspections equate to greater compliance?’ This was achieved by undertaking a retrospective analysis of available data at two hierarchical levels:
The two types of analysis provided complementary information about the effect of the inspection programme on levels of compliance.   

Seven regulatory systems were assessed in this study:
The study focused on available data in SEPA and NIEA from three broad regulatory systems as follows:
Within these systems, PPC Part A and Part B were treated separately.  The industrial discharges regulated under the Water (NI) Order and the water utility discharges regulated under a similar system using Registered Standards for 2005 to 2006 were also treated separately (Appendix 3 provides details about what data was available for use in this study).  Prior to April 2007, the water utility sector discharges from Water Service were not controlled under the Water (NI) Order as Water Service was part of Central Government and had “crown immunity. However conditions to control their environmental impact were set in Registered Standards.   

The Scottish data were studied for a three year period (from mid 2005 up to July 2008). For Northern Ireland, data were studied over the period 2005-2007. The data that were used in the study were from the routine inspection programme and data from non-routine inspections undertaken in response to non-compliance, a pollution incident, or a complaint, were not used. Northern Ireland discharge data was derived from sampling data obtained from end of pipe regulatory sampling (Industrial Discharges) and self monitoring (Water Utility Discharges).

1 In this report the term ‘inspections’ includes sampling as well as site inspection

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic format on CDRom at 20.00 + VAT or hard copy at 35.00, less 20% to FWR members.

N.B. The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website