Establish Policies for Drone Inspections - Safetip #178

Safety Tip and Best Practice
July 03, 2019
By Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

This week’s Safetip is about establishing and writing policies for safety inspections conducted with drones.

Use of Drones for Inspections

Safety programs include workplace inspections that are either regularly scheduled or triggered when a specific condition is met (e.g. a severe incident). Inspections can target an entire facility, a specific process, a specific physical location, or a particular equipment.

Some work environments can be too hazardous for a person to conduct inspections. Examples include:

  • Inspections at height (e.g. utility and telecommunication towers and lines, oil refinery flame stacks).
  • Inspections in confined spaces (e.g. construction areas, mines, refinery tanks).
  • Inspections in areas with a hazardous atmosphere (e.g. chemical plants, mines, confined spaces with limited breathable air).

The safety of workers conducting inspections can be at risk in such situations. This is why companies are turning to drones for inspections.

Drones can also be practical if inspections have to be conducted over great distances, such as the inspection of pipelines or power transmission lines. They also help save time by covering large areas of a plant quicker than having a person move around.

Establish Policies

You’re convinced of the benefits of using drones for safety inspections, and you already have drones. You’re ready to start, right? Not so fast! Drones are not toys. Your organization should establish policies governing the use of drones for inspections.

What items should be covered by the policies? An article by the ASSP, “Three Steps to a Safe and Effective Drone Surveillance Program”, has good ideas that can be used as a starting point.

Here are the elements that should be developed or clarified as part of the policies:

  • A list of the cases or circumstances where drones are used for inspections, i.e. what specific types of inspections will be conducted with drones?
  • The people who are authorized to conduct drone inspections.
    • The qualifications, skills or certifications required to be authorized.
  • The training program for authorized personnel on the use of drones for inspections.
  • If applicable, the weather conditions (e.g. wind, rain) under which drones can or cannot be operated for inspections.
  • Measures to be taken to ensure safety at sites where drone inspections are being conducted.
  • The protection of data privacy, security and confidentiality:
    • How will the security of the data transmitted by drones be ensured? How will the data be encrypted?
    • What happens if drone cameras take images or videos of individuals? How will their privacy be protected in line with any potential law or policy on data privacy (e.g. a close-up image of a person without their prior consent may cause issues if the image is considered to be “personal data” by a regulation)? Will images of faces be blurred?

After establishing the policies, be sure to document them and make them available to all affected workers.

Each week we publish a Safetip where we share a safety tip or best practice that contributes to safety excellence. Visit Enablon Insights again next Wednesday for a new Safetip!

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Author

Jean-Grégoire Manoukian

Content Thought Leader