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Inspections are an important and required aspect of the electrical field. They keep buildings up to code, uphold building safety and ultimately limit some liability for engineers and contractors.

Where is inspecting at today, and how will it evolve in the future?

Read on to learn about why a drone may fly by your next jobsite, why your inspection requests may be delayed and how testing laboratories relate to inspectors in determining compliance.

OSHA May Make Use of Drones for Inspections

According to a Bloomberg report, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sent a memo saying it may start conducting safety inspections with the support of camera-equipped drones. The drones, or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), would collect evidence during inspections, and would especially be for investigating inaccessible or hazardous locations.

Two key concerns and potential holdups were noted by Electrical Contractor:

1. UAS Rules and Regulations

To meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone rules, “OSHA could qualify as a public aircraft operator or civil aircraft operator.” Slightly different requirements exist for those two distinctions.

Before an inspection, OSHA will determine if a drone is appropriate for the situation and will be responsible for flying the equipment. An OSHA representative will then need to file a report to the area UAS manager prior to the flight, then report on relevant information about the flight and information gathered.

2. Consent and Privacy

According to the memo, OSHA will obtain consent from each employer before an inspection, and will ensure on-site personnel are notified in the interest of safety.

A common concern of the initiative is for multi-employer jobsites. If contractors authorize an OSHA drone inspection, what are the rights of subcontractors not involved in the authorization?

For more on the memo and key insight from Electrical Contractor, read the full article.

The Dilemma of Building Booms and Inspection Capacity

The country’s construction boom of new buildings and building expansions is good news for electrical contractors and engineers. But what happens when these new projects outpace the capacity and speed of city and regional inspection departments?

As EC&M brings to light, swells in inspection requests inevitably cause significant delays.

For example, Rich Anderson, a division manager for inspections in Austin, Texas, said his goal is to complete 90% of inspection requests within 24 hours. Due to the volume of residential builds, his department is able to complete only 33% of all requests on that timeline.

As delays persist, several undesirable outcomes develop:

  • Project deadlines delay and timelines are disrupted.
  • Other trades are behind schedule.
  • Overworked, rushed inspectors could miss code and standard violations.

The delays may also be a sign of deeper issues for the inspection organizations. Some of those deeper inspection problems include:

  • An aging workforce, with few qualified candidates joining the field.
  • Lack of funding and support from local jurisdictions to budget more inspectors.

For now, the biggest immediate issue is in dealing with the rapid growth in these cities, and determining the best course of action for hiring new inspectors and properly training them for the job.

For a full recap of the inspection problems facing Austin, Florida and other growing cities, view the full article from EC&M.

The Relationship of Electrical Inspectors and Testing Agencies

As IAEI clearly explains, the primary functions of recognized testing laboratories and field evaluation bodies is to perform product safety testing, including electrical equipment performance evaluations and product safety standards and certifications.

What sets the two groups apart, however, is how they conduct evaluations, the certifications offered and where inspections are performed.

Terminology also distinguishes the two groups. Below we provide the basic definitions testing laboratories and field evaluators use to designate authorization.

  • Accepted to the authority having jurisdiction.
  • The equipment, materials or services are on a list published by the organization as acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction as an evaluation of them.
  • The equipment or materials that are marked with a label, symbol or other designation that makes it acceptable to the authority having jurisdiction. It is concerned with product evaluation.
  • Field Evaluation. The process that determines conformance with requirements for unique products not listed or labeled by a certification program.
  • Field Labeled. Similar to labeled equipment or materials, these products are marked to indicate proper evaluation for requirement compliance as described in a field evaluation report.
  • Marking or Certification Mark. This proves a product was certified through testing by a certification agency. Each testing laboratory has a unique mark that indicates compliance with their product safety standard. 

OSHA, as part of its workplace safety mission, assesses and qualifies Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) that are “authorized to perform testing and certification activities” for specific standards. Common steps NRTLS and other recognized laboratories must follow to assure compliance of product safety include:

  1. Product Assessment
  2. Standard Identification
  3. Samples
  4. Physical Inspection
  5. Testing
  6. Report and Certification
  7. Initial Factory Inspection
  8. Factory Follow-Up Inspections

To learn more about these NRTLs, and their relationship with inspectors, IAEI published a detailed description of who they are, their process and how they relate to electrical workers.