OSHA Safety Inspections by Drone

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum last year announcing that its inspectors were now authorized to use camera-equipped unmanned aircraft systems (UAS or drones) to collect evidence during inspections. This means that OSHA inspectors are authorized to conduct in-person inspections of the workplace as well as remote-controlled aircraft inspections above the workplace to uncover safety violations. This has raised some concerns for employers.

Among those concerns, is an employee’s Fourth Amendment right to object to the expansion of an overbroad inspection. For example, if an employee (through his or her employer) objects to the drone inspection, is that the end of the investigation by that method or will OSHA then seek a search warrant? OSHA guidance states that inspectors must “obtain express consent from the employer” before it operates a drone for inspection purposes over a workplace. OSHA says that if it is notified of an objection

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