Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock
Photo Courtesy of Adobe Stock

OSHA is now using drones to conduct health and safety inspections of employer facilities, EHS Today reports, though the agency can only do so if employers consent. In 2018, OSHA used drones to inspect nine employer facilities after obtaining permission from management. Drone usage by OSHA during inspections was formalization in a memo issued during the year by the agency.

The memo sets forth the parameters OSHA must follow when using drones, including the fact that the employer must agree to their use. It also reveals that OSHA is exploring the option of obtaining a Blanket Public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones nationwide.

Because employers must grant the agency permission for it to conduct the flyovers of their facilities, their expanding use puts employers in an uncomfortable position, some attorneys note, observing that OSHA's use of drones has the potential to expand its violation-finding capabilities during any inspection.

Attorneys also believe that the use of OSHA inspection using drones are likely to increase in the near future. Additionally, even though the scope of inspection may be defined with drones, citations can be issued for any hazards the drones find in plain sight during their flyovers. Drone technology may allow more hazards in "plain" sight to be captured than typically would be with human inspection.

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