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OSHA drone inspections raise concerns

In a 2018 memorandum, OSHA authorized its inspectors to use drones to take pictures and video recordings on construction sites. Construction contractors in Louisiana and across the U.S. are concerned about the legal consequences of this move. For instance, employers have the right to protest against inspections that go beyond their original scope and begin to invade privacy.

Multi-employer construction sites pose a unique issue as well. If one employer agrees to the drone inspection, this will affect the rights of those other employers who did not agree. Debates also continue over the ownership of airspace above construction sites.

Construction industry groups have not developed any strategies as yet for contractors when they are faced with a drone inspection. Legal observers have given some advice, though. First, employers should have a plan in place, designate someone to accompany the drone inspector and ensure that all employees understand the company's rights. Second, they should participate during the drone flight planning phase and not be afraid to set limits.

The fourth-quarter Commercial Construction Index, a survey conducted by USG Corporation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, shows that 74 percent of construction companies plan to adopt drones within the next three years. Clearer piloting and use requirements, greater affordability and other positive factors are making drones attractive to smaller contractors as well.

If drones are used to improve workplace safety, this is for the better. However, they cannot always prevent accidents. Most people who have been injured on the job are entitled to apply forworkers' compensation benefits, which can include the payment of related medical expenses and, in some cases, the replacement of a percentage of wages lost during the recovery period.

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