OSHA drones flying over your workplace

“‘That buzzing noise over a construction site could be an OSHA drone searching for safety violations,’ Bloomberg Law reports, linking to a May 18, 2018 DOL memorandum obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. Yes, your friendly neighborhood OSHA inspector is now authorized by the Labor Department ‘to use camera-carrying drones as part of their inspections of outdoor workplaces.'” And while current procedures call for obtaining employer consent before sending the spycams aloft, thus avoiding Fourth Amendment challenge, employers who refuse such consent “risk the ire of the DOL, with serious consequences. Nothing is more likely to put a target on an employer’s back for multiple and frequent future investigations than sending a DOL investigator away from your doors. Refusing consent will label you at the DOL as a bad faith employer that deserves closer scrutiny. This I know through experience practicing before DOL and as a former Administrator of DOL’s Wage & Hour Division.” [Tammy McCutchen, Federalist Society]

And speaking of the Fourth Amendment (if not of OSHA), here is a Cato Daily Podcast with Caleb Brown, Julian Sanchez, and Matthew Feeney on how courts think about rights against unreasonable search and seizure in the digital age, and what could be done to improve protections.


  • It would be one thing if earning extra scrutiny from regulators simply meant that the regulators were just extra vigilant. But often they are simply capricious–adding to the mix incompetence and arrogance (a characteristic of many of them)–you get something akin to a mafia thug with a badge.

  • I think it is time for me to dust off my plans for an anti-drone drone. Did they ever determine an altitude for trespassing?

    • The navy has a missile defense system for their ships that is a auto targeting, radar guided mini-gun (The modern version of a Gatling gun).

      I don’t have the skills to build it, but I had the idea of a working scale model of that system using paintball guns to shoot down drones.

      • I’m quite familiar with the Phalanx system, but, what goes up must come down. Our local media equates paintball and bb guns with real guns. I’m looking more at snagging them out of the air.

  • you would think that if buckshot can reach, it was too low… 😀

  • Isn’t flying a drone over people (like an outdoor workplace) a violation of FAA regs, specifically 17 CFR Paet 107 Section 39?

    • Stevie, Stevie, Stevie…. since when did the gov follow the rules us peons are expected to follow.

      • I think it’s a dumb rule (especially the “parked cars count as shelter but not moving cars” part), but still. OSHA shouldn’t be violating FAA regs

  • I would think that companies would want to do this for themselves–so as to reduce costs/accidents.

  • […] employer who says no? As pointed out by Tammy McCutchen (writing for The Federalist Society, c/o Walter Olson’s Overlawyered), denying an OSHA investigatory request is the quickest way to become an OSHA target as an […]

  • SPO, the problem is that OSHA sticking their noses into your business does not necessarily equate to reduced costs or accidents. There are numerous documented cases where OSHA acted capriciously and in such a way as to increase accidents (after imposing significant costs on the business). Then, of course, there’s the expensive mandates that were contradicted by the next inspector to come by. OSHA is a perfect example of what you get when you empower a deep pocket government bureaucracy in the name of public safety. A good idea, but the law of unintended consequences cannot be sidestepped.

    I think I’ll start an outdoor shotgun manufacturing plant. They can hardly accuse me of violating any firearms laws if I am testing my shotguns in a safe manner on my remote property.

  • Falcons. Trained falcons. I’ve seen articles saying they love chasing drones.

  • My understanding is that the FAA is going thru a rule making process to allow drones to fly both at night and over people. Perhaps as a response to a request from OSHA?