Key Takeaways from OSHA’s New Drone Initiative

July 23, 2019 - Demetrius Pyburn

In our recent employment law seminar, we discussed OSHA’s new drone initiative and how the use of drones will impact HR. Here are some key takeaways regarding drone usage.

  • In 2018, OSHA reportedly used drones with cameras to conduct at least nine (9) inspections of employer facilities, mainly in conditions that were too dangerous to send an inspector.
  • OSHA formalized, through a memo, the use of drones for inspection activities and ordered the designation of staff members as unmanned aircraft program managers.
  • At this time, OSHA can only use drones for inspection activities with permission from employers, potentially leaving companies in an uncomfortable position if they deny the request.
  • If an employer allows OSHA to use drones during an inspection, they should get involved from the outset of the development of the flight plan, designate a visual observer during the flight and obtain a written agreement that all data and photographs collected will be promptly shared.
  • If presented with the task of incorporating drone usage for the company, HR managers may need to hire or train drone pilots and ensure safe implementation.
  • When determining the best way to incorporate drones, consideration must take place as to whether the company would rather contract for drone services or operate the drone service in-house.
  • With companies eager to hire drone pilots to start building their internal drone programs, and qualified operators are in short supply, careful attention needs to be placed on the vetting process, to ensure the operators hired have the proper certification.
  • HR leaders will need to think of and treat commercial drone operators similar to other specialized, technical or niche skills.
  • Finally, HR managers need to keep up with the federal, state and local legal requirements and regulations to ensure compliance.

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