NSC Construction and Utilities Division news NSC Labor Division news Research/studies

‘Living together’ with drones: Advice for easing worker concerns

Photo: ilze79/iStockphoto

Bilbao, Spain — As on-the-job use of drones expands, workers should be trained on the technology’s capabilities – including communication basics – to ensure safe workplaces, a new report states.

Published by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the report bases its conclusions on an analysis of best practices and existing studies related to drones – also known as unmanned aircraft systems or unmanned aerial vehicles.

“The perception of danger in people standing in the proximity of an active UAV is often amplified by propellers rotating at high speeds and enabling the UAV to make complex maneuvers,” the report states. “This naturally raises safety concerns.”

To alleviate those concerns, EU-OSHA recommends that workers be trained on “generic and specific capabilities” of drones. This might entail reading a manual/workplace sign or obtaining certification should the worker be required to operate in an environment with UAVs.

It adds that “even workers not directly related” to drone operation must understand how to give basic commands to drones in their vicinity, such as to “move away.” The report authors suggest employing a human supervisor who can:

  • Ensure drones maintain safe distances from workers.
  • Manage communication with workers.
  • Assess workers’ comfort levels, perhaps via questionnaires.

Employers also should consider workers “at the center of the concern” when implementing and communicating drone operations and not take for granted that workers will “adjust” to drones on the fly, EU-OSHA says.

“Workers must feel comfortable ‘living’ together with UAV in shared workplaces,” the report states. “This means that special attention must be given to designing forms of communication that do not overload the workers.”

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration regulates the commercial use of drones under 14 CFR Part 107.

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)