Are Drones the Future for OSHA Inspections?

It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s an OSHA drone? That’s right, believe it or not, OSHA is now employing the use of drones for enforcement purposes in areas that would otherwise be deemed as inaccessible or unsafe for OSHA inspectors.

After publishing a memo in May of 2018 formalizing the use of drones during inspections, OSHA has reportedly completed nine inspections of facilities after dangerous incidents, such as a combustible dust blast, occurred. A key point of the memo – employer permission – has some employers uncomfortable with the situation as it has the potential to unearth violations that may not have been found by traditional methods. Also included in the memo, OSHA revealed their exploration in obtaining a Blanket Public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the FAA to operate drones on a national scale.

Do the Risks Outweigh the Rewards?
While the benefits of quicker inspections for OSHA may be positive for both the inspector and the employers involved, the latter should take time to weigh out the pros and cons of giving consent moving forward. During a conventional inspection, authorized employer representatives are allowed to accompany an inspector to essentially mimic the investigation and gather the same data as the inspector during the walkaround. By using a drone, this process becomes extremely difficult for employers to mirror. Also, of noteworthy consideration, businesses’ trade secrets may be exposed to OSHA drone cameras, so it will be of vital importance to address the issue before giving consent to a drone inspection.

Bottom line, the use of drones by OSHA will only continue to expand, and as such, employers should take the time to ensure they have the proper policies and procedures in place for their protection. Want to find out what else OSHA is up to in 2019? Click here now.

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