Drones, OSHA Inspections and Your Legal Rights

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Now that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has approved the use of drones for safety inspections, businesses must evaluate what this change means to them.  The National Law Review, suggested that organizations start educating themselves on drone regulations as they figure out how to adopt this new technology into their business models.

While drones are now authorized to aid in workplace inspections, they are expected to assist, rather than replace, humans. Before launching a remote inspection, OSHA rules state that the inspector must, “obtain express consent from the employer.”

 If an employer refuses a drone inspection, the business will need to have a back-up plan in place.  One option would be to conduct a manual inspection.

A business with concerns about protecting exclusive processes and trade secrets might be unwilling to expose some elements of its operation to a camera. A combination of manual and remote inspection could work. Companies that anticipate various scenarios and establish guidelines ahead of time, are likely to face an easier transition for their drone workforce.

The view afforded by a drone could also have an impact on OSHA’s Multi-Employer Worksite Citation Policy.  As recently as December 2018, this policy was tested and upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals according to the National Law Review.

The panel, representing Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas noted, “We conclude that the Secretary of Labor has the authority under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to issue citations to controlling employers at multi-employer worksites for violations of the act’s standards.”

January 31, 2019

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