Tips for Improving Job Site Safety with Drones

Best practices can help reduce the chances of injury or fatality.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are expanding possibilities for almost every industry. Better known as drones, these airborne robots can perform tasks that were once relegated exclusively to human labor and heavy-duty equipment. But they can also help mitigate safety issues associated with high-risk tasks in the construction sector.

According to the US Department of Labor (DOL), one out of every five workplace fatalities in the US occurs on construction sites. Here are some of the most effective ways in which drones can be used to increase job site safety and efficiency:

Assessing and Planning Your Construction Site

Before construction begins, each job site must be evaluated to determine the best possible methods and materials for the space. Drones capture images and data about future construction sites, including the specific dimensions, elevation changes, and soil conditions. This makes it easier to create detailed maps and models without the expense, or mobility restrictions of manned aircraft. Additionally, UAVs also eliminate the need to send individual workers into areas that haven’t been mapped or measured for safety risks yet.

Drones are a safer, faster way to plan earthwork, design buildings, and account for any new variables that may affect the construction process. They also provide accurate, on-demand access to the data needed to ensure that worker safety isn’t compromised by last-minute changes or unexpected surprises.

Mapping and Monitoring Multiple Building Levels

Construction sites are complex puzzles with constantly moving pieces. Regular monitoring is crucial because supervisors need to know the status of each piece, and how a project is progressing.

Drones can monitor multiple levels quickly, as well as provide updated footage and documentation from multiple vantage points. Thanks to infrared, laser, and radar sensors, drones can also collect spatial information about the spaces they survey. Equipped with the appropriate communication hardware, they can even use sensors to detect hazardous conditions and immediately notifying project managers when risks increase or workers stray from the proper protocol.

Conducting Safer, More Comprehensive Inspections

Safety inspections are necessary before, during, and after any project. However, the construction process can create new hazards, as well as make some spaces harder to reach. Drones can efficiently move throughout the site, performing remote inspections and detecting violations or hazards even when workers and equipment are present.

Instead of inspecting infrastructure along busy highways or crawling through spaces that are under construction, workers can send drones into these spaces to collect data for them.

Instead of scheduling periodic inspections and relying on the human eye to notice every detail, workers can rely on drone technology to access and analyze the construction site as often as necessary.

Transporting Tools and Equipment on Job Sites

Drones are more versatile than manned aircraft because they’re smaller and more lightweight, but that doesn’t mean they’re all tiny. Search and rescue teams already rely on “heavy lift” or high-payload drones to deliver supplies to remote areas, and some recreational drones promise to carry up to 400 pounds of weight.

Drones may help mitigate risks resulting from the movement of tools and equipment throughout a worksite by reducing what workers need to carry and move themselves. For example, a worker may focus on safely reaching an upper level, while a drone brings the tools they’ll need when they get there.

Following FAA Regulations and Avoiding Collisions

Of course, using drones for safety also means using drones safely. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a special set of regulations for any unmanned aircraft system that weighs less than 35 pounds. All commercial and government drone operators must follow these rules, starting with registration and continuing with where, how, and when you use each drone.

One such rule stipulates that drones can only be operated within the user’s line of sight. Another limits their elevation to 400 feet above the ground or less.

The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund encourages commercial drone operators to consider additional safety needs for each specific job site. It is well know that operating drones around human workers is only safe if the battery is fully charged, and if the collision risks are well known.  Builders must consider all obstacles that a drone could crash into, including temporary walls and equipment, and make sure workers are protected in case one falls from above or crashes into them.

From high elevations and high-voltage power lines to hazardous substances and unfinished structures, safety risks are abundant for workers in the construction industry. Drones could be the safest investment you need to mitigate these risks, and they may increase efficiency and productivity along the way.

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