Currently, it’s up to OSHA regional administrators to determine whether their region will act to enforce a drone compliance inspection program. Any region wishing to do so must establish a regional drone program manager and organise a full drone inspection team which must consist of a remote pilot in command, visual observer, and a safety monitor. The program must also comply with all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, anyone on-site must be notified before a flight, and the pilot must always maintain line-of-sight with the drone.
Although OSHA currently needs an employer’s consent before conducting a drone inspection, the group is seeking a “blanket public certificate” of authorization from the FAA to use drones without consent,” according to EHS Today.
Points to consider when approached for a drone inspection
Drone inspections are difficult, and many employees will find this quite invasive, but they can be vital for uncovering necessary information or evidence of the premises. While denying a request for drone inspection may create the perception of a compliance issue, in serious injury cases it is worth considering denying the request until a safety officer, legal representative, and senior management member can be on site.
Before consenting it is worth noting:
● An employer should consider the site itself an whether a drone flight would be safe or risk causing damage to equipment or work products
● An employer can work with OSHA on developing a specific flight plan and get copies of the data collected.
● During a typical OSHA inspection, an agent of the employer usually accompanies the inspector, which is not possible during a drone flight.
It remains to be seen what the future of drone inspections will be, but it is an exciting development in HSE despite initial concerns over security, privacy, and compliance.