New FAA rule may allow for more flexible drone use in worksite inspections
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a final rule allowing operators to fly small drones, also called unmanned aircraft systems, over people under certain circumstances. It expands the circumstances under which drones can operate without a waiver or exemption. The new rule amends its regulations to “expand the ability to conduct operations over people, provided that the operation meets the requirements of one of four operational categories” described in a newly established standard. The agency described the change as “the next step in the FAA’s incremental approach to integrating UAS into the national airspace system.”
This new rule could lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to push for the increased use of drones in worksite inspections. OSHA inspections must adhere to the “plain sight rule,” which means anything the compliance officer lawfully observes during the inspection can be the basis of a citation. The scope of what is in plain sight expands considerably when drones are used by inspectors. However, agency policy also bans compliance officers from exposing themselves to hazards during inspections, which for example often means limiting their ability to climb ladders and otherwise observe conditions on towers or hard-to-reach places.
In the past, OSHA has sought to get around those limitations by photographing and videoing worksites with airborne drones. OSHA’s enforcement policy concerning the use of UASs in inspections currently requires the agency’s inspectors to obtain express consent from the employer prior to using a drone.
Read the full article at EHS Today.