Case Study: OSHA Using Drones for Workplace Inspections

Camera-mounted drone for workplace inspection flying over a park

When you think of government agencies taking advantage of drone technology, Homeland Security may be the first that comes to mind. Now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is using drones to conduct its workplace inspections, paving the way for a future in which UAVs used in OSHA inspections is not the exception, but the rule.

The Advantage of UAVs for Inspections

There are several advantages to using UAVs for facilities inspections. Perhaps the most promising advantage is the ability to create a safer experience for the inspector by eliminating the need to physically access dangerous areas of a building or factory floor.

OSHA first deployed drones in 2018, after accidents had occurred in workplaces, and the areas were still considered too dangerous to enter. In the wake of an explosion or a flood, UAVs provide OSHA investigators with search capabilities that were not previously available.

Drones also provide inspectors with a clearer picture of a facility quickly and identify problem areas easier (on the roof of the facility, for example). This is a faster and more cost effective way to conduct better inspections – a benefit to both inspectors and employers.

Finally, the ability to mount advanced photographic tech to the drone allows for inspectors to capture high-definition images and infrared images of facilities to keep as records and track changes over time.

While these advantages suggest a promising future for OSHA using inspection drones, there are some parameters in place to protect both inspectors and employers.

Conditions to OSHA Using Drones

As of 2019, employers must consent to the use of drones in OSHA workplace inspections. That said, employers should be aware of OSHA’s adoption of drone technology and understand how this may influence the inspection process.

Next, OSHA, in formalizing its use of UAVs for inspections and OSHA investigation search activities, issued a memo mandating that each of its 10 regional offices assign a team member to serve as their unmanned aircraft program manager. This person is responsible for overseeing pilot training, assembling drone teams, and reviewing reports of inspections in which drones are used.

In addition, OSHA may soon obtain a Blanket Public Certificate of Authorization (COA) from the FAA to operate drones nationwide. This could have an impact on the degree to which OSHA can cite employers for violations. If OSHA secures the COA, this may expand their ability to conduct inspections and issue violations, regardless of whether an employer consents to a UAV inspection.

Learn More About Inspection Drones

OSHA has become an early adopter of drone technology for workplace inspection applications, but other industries that require inspections are also getting on board. From real estate to utilities, UAVs for inspections are helping businesses lower costs and keep their team members safe in the field.

At HSE, we specialize in providing you with the best commercial UAV technology, including drones, cameras, and software – even pilot training and certification assistance. To learn more about our services, call us at 309-361-7656 or send us a message today.

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