Smart Mobile Tools for Field Inspectors supports inspection planning and management, field data collection, and evidence management, all within an integrated suite of digital tools to improve the quality and consistency of environmental inspections.
Environmental inspections are largely paper-based processes requiring hours of preparation and post-inspection work. Smart Mobile Tools for Field Inspectors (Smart Tools) bring environmental inspections into the 21st century by streamlining operations and improving the quality and consistency of information collected by inspectors during inspections.
Smart Tools have fundamentally improved the operation and management of federal and state environmental inspection programs by providing digital assistance to inspectors and their managers during each stage of the inspection process. Smart Tools:
- Improve consistency and clarity of information
- Optimize inspection resources
- Provide inspectors and their managers with a suite of digital tools to improve the quality, consistency, and timeliness of inspections
- Support federal and state inspection planning and management, field data collection, and evidence management
- Prepare field inspectors to conduct and document their inspections both in the office and in the field on a mobile digital device
- Provide inspectors with full electronic access to relevant data, guidance, and reference materials, and
- Automate creation of draft inspection reports, pulling from inspectors’ electronic field notes and other evidence, including photos
The Smart Tools effort draws on the work of several states that developed inspection support software for a variety of media programs. States and EPA started by holding a lean process improvement event that addressed joint Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), and air requirements for a mobile inspection software solution. The team also tested ruggedized laptops for use with the Smart Tools software.
In 2018-2019, the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials helped EPA customize Smart Tools for use in RCRA Subtitle C inspections. Smart Tools for RCRA was completed at the end of 2019 and rolled out for use by inspectors in the early adopter regions and the states of Arkansas and Maryland in 2020. Inspectors from 37 states have now attended training sessions, and several states have completed desk audits and field inspections using Smart Tools. The national rollout continues, and the user base is expanding rapidly. EPA is launching a series of training sessions for RCRA and Underground Storage Tanks (UST) inspectors in 2023.
The Smart Tools project team, in partnership with ECOS and the Association of Clean Water Administrators, built upon Smart Tools for RCRA to define and develop a version for inspectors implementing the NPDES permit program addressing water pollution. Smart Tools for NPDES inspectors was launched late in 2020, followed by a series of training sessions in 2021 and 2022 to support further adoption as part of the national rollout.
Smart Tools is expanding to support program areas in which checklists are the primary means of monitoring compliance on-site. Included are the UST and Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) programs, which are close to releasing minimum viable products, and likely the lead-based paint program. The project team is also evaluating Clean Air Act sub-programs that could benefit from Smart Tools and continues to support current and new RCRA and NPDES users.