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OSHA to Use Drones During Workplace Inspections

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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may soon use drones during its workplace inspections. In May 2018, OSHA published a memorandum regarding the use of drones for workplace inspections. In the memorandum, OSHA said that it was "exploring the option of obtaining a Blanket Public COA to operate UAS nationwide." What does this mean for employers in the United States? It means that you may notice drones flying overhead at your workplace during an OSHA inspection.

Drones have become increasingly popular in recent years. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the number of registered drones in the United States is expected to increase to 3.5 million by 2021. In the past, most drones were used strictly for recreational and leisure purposes. But many businesses and even government institutions now use drones for commercial purposes as well. Now it appears that OSHA is jumping on the bandwagon by including drones in its tool set for workplace inspections.

How will OSHA use drones during its workplace inspections exactly? OSHA hasn't revealed details of its drone strategy, though the unmanned aerial vehicles will likely be used to inspect areas of a workplace that are difficult for OSHA officials to access themselves. Construction sites, for example, often have high-rise buildings that are difficult and dangerous for OSHA officials to access. Using drones, however, OSHA officials can inspect high-rise buildings and other tall areas safely from the ground. An OSHA official can pilot a drone up the side of a high-rise building, using the drone to record and capture footage for compliance verification purposes.

OSHA has its own rules regarding the use of drones for workplace inspections. In the memorandum,  OSHA says that pilots of drones must pass an FAA-accredited test that provides them with a remote pilot certificate. All drones used for workplace inspections must also be registered with the FAA. Additionally, OSHA officials must keep records of all drone flights used during workplace inspections. And finally, any accidents involving drones during a workplace inspection must be reported to the FAA.

The use of drones for workplace inspections could be beneficial for employers. It simplifies the inspection process so that employers can get their business back up and running more quickly.

You can learn more about OSHA's plan to use drones during workplace inspections by checking out the memorandum here.

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