OHS Canada Magazine

Will drones soon be used to spy on illegal construction sites?

September 10, 2018
By Alec Caldwell

Drones, or unarmed aerial vehicles (UAV’s) with cameras, are already in use by the Ontario Provincial Police. How long before the Ministry of Labour uses them to monitor our jobsites?

When you hear the word drone, you might think of those high-tech military devices that fly unmanned through the sky to spy on and attack political enemies.
What you probably don’t know, is that smaller, unarmed drones (also known as UAV’s – Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are already in use by Canadian police departments, including the OPP, RCMP and Halton Regional Police.

Recently, I had the opportunity to view an UAV and its video feedback system.

Which got me wondering, how long before drones are used to monitor Canada’s construction industry?

Ontario’s WSIB has about $14-billion in unfunded liabilities and has spent a ton of money on advertising to all of us that, yes, they are coming around to check your clearance certificates in 2014. They aren’t utilizing drones right now, but if a technology like this was adopted, could it help cut costs and remove the training time needed to put new inspectors on the ground? Drones could scope out new construction sites, with inspectors quickly dispatched from unmarked, mobile locations. Would the Ministry of Labour be interested in a system like this?

I don’t agree with this type of aerial surveillance being introduced by just any government agency in our business across Canada, but I can foresee its use in tight areas where there’s a greater concentration of new single homes being built, such as within the Toronto core.

And if you think that construction regulatory agencies like the WSIB would never be able to afford drone technology to inspect building sites, remember that fines for non-WSIB compliance, just as an example, can be as high as $100,000 fine for those found guilty after January 1, 2014. The government is looking for big-time revenues; it will find them. And who knows what technology it will deploy along the way.

I’m not trying to give you something else to worry about, but if drone technology is ever used to monitor this industry, remember you read it here first.

Alec Caldwell is the founder of CARAHS, a health and safety organization. This article has been reprinted with the permission of Canadian Contractor.