One of the more difficult topics called into question in the workplace today is determining how interchangeable OSHA construction standards and general industry standards are, knowing which OSHA regulations to follow, and which regulations apply at what time. OSHA uses the designation of general industry to refer to all industries not included in construction, agriculture, or maritime and are covered under the 29 CFR 1910 standards. The construction industry standards, covered under 29 CFR 1926, addresses specific conditions that exist on construction sites and designates responsibilities by all construction industry employers.
The most important myth to dispel is the thought that the two standards are “interchangeable”. The standards that OSHA has established are not used in place of one another. One standard does not replace or change places with the other. Although some standards are covered in duplicate, they are separate standards and there are numerous notable differences. Listed below are few examples that describe differences between the general industry and construction standards:
Keep in mind though, that just because a regulation is addressed in the construction standards and not in the general industry standards does not mean that an organization cannot be cited from the 1910 standards. Although 1926 covers a variety of construction standards, hazards may still exist that are not included. In order for OSHA to properly address these hazards and protect employees, they may cite employers under 1910 when necessary.
Similarly, even if a company operates in a general industry facility, it is likely that they also perform construction work. Under 1910, OSHA describes construction work as “work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.” So, if employees perform additions to buildings, perform painting, make alterations, or perform demolition work to a building structure, it would be considered construction work by OSHA and therefore citable under the 1926 standards.
Below are some guidelines to help determine whether a certain activity falls under construction or general industry:
So even though the general industry and construction standards are not used interchangeably, they can be used in addition to one another, and simply stated, there are no clear-cut rules when determining which regulations apply at what time. OSHA provides guidelines, but the employer must make the decision of applicability. Becoming familiar with the various standards is the best way to know whether they apply to a specific application. To ensure OSHA compliance, it is necessary to understand the differences between the general industry and construction standards. As a best practice, regardless of whether the work task being performed is general industry or construction, the most conservative requirements should be followed.