Inherent in the legal and administrative definitions of compliance is the assumption that no one definition is necessarily sufficient to cover all situations. Some discretion will inevitably be available to field-level officials, since full enforcement of the law is an impossibility: judgements always have to be made about both the meaning of the legal rule and its applicability to the problems encountered by officials. The resulting working definition of compliance is therefore not static, but is a fluid concept which comprises a variety of dimensions.
Inspectors operate with a variety of notions of compliance. Full compliance is a standard set of conditions which they are aiming towards: this will usually be at least the legal or administrative definition of compliance, and it may represent a standard above the legal minimum. Inspectors may also operate with temporary definitions of compliance, that is a state of affairs which is less than full compliance but which is tolerated for a fixed period, until such time as they consider it reasonable for a state of full compliance to have been achieved. Both of these are positive definitions, to the extent that they emphasize the degree to which something measures up to the required standard. When inspectors were wanting to emphasize the negative aspects of a situation they talked in terms of non-compliance.
Inextricably related to these terms are notions of acceptability. Compliant behaviour may be regarded as acceptable and noncompliance may be regarded as unacceptable, but this is not invariably the case. While inspectors do not refer explicitly to unacceptable compliance or acceptable non-compliance, both of these terms are relevant to the discussion. Unacceptable compliance existed when the minimum standards laid down in the legal and administrative definitions were met but the inspector felt that a particular company could easily achieve more. A business could be asked to exceed the legal and administrative definitions of compliance for a variety of reasons. In some cases the risks posed by a particular process or site could lead to extreme caution and to the imposition of standards which well exceeded the legal/administrative minimum. IAPIs dealing with an asbestosstripping firm were particularly stringent in their demands. Indeed, they