Posted on: March 12, 2022

OSHA Standards for Construction & General Industry: What's the Difference?

osha construction vs general industry

OSHA standards fall into four categories by industry: General Industry, Construction, Maritime, and Agriculture.

These standards are the rules that most employers in the U.S. must follow to protect their workers from safety and health hazards. They're found under Title 29 of the federal code (often shortened to 29 CFR).

Why Are OSHA Standards Different for Some Industries?

Whenever possible, OSHA tries to apply the same standards to the whole American workforce but sometimes the unique nature of the working conditions in an industry will call for something else.

For example, the sanitation facility (bathroom) rules for most workplaces aren't practical for the people working in the fields during a harvest, so agriculture needs its own standards. Maritime work presents certain logistical challenges and needs.

Construction is special as well, due to unique hazards, the temporary nature of most work sites, and the fact that most employers are small to medium businesses (SMBs).

Finally, a few industries (like mining, aviation, nuclear energy, and marine vessels) have a separate agency that takes primary responsibility for worker safety and health. OSHA rules still apply in these cases, but specific rules may be overridden or supplemented with agency-specific ones.

OSHA 10-Hour Construction Training Course

89 59.99

OSHA 10-Hour General Industry Training Course

89 59.99

OSHA 30-Hour Construction Training Course

189 159.99

OSHA 30-Hour General Industry Training Course

189 159.99

Where Do You Find the OSHA Standards for Each of the Four Categories?

Special industries typically have their own "part" of OSHA's section of the federal code.

Construction-specific rules are in part 1926 (which often appears as 29 CFR 1926, or §1926 for short). The rules for Agriculture are under part 1928.

Maritime-specific rules are spread out into multiple parts by the type of work – §1915, 1917, and 1918, with related standards in §1919-1922.

General Industry rules appear under 29 CFR 1910.

The standards for industries regulated by a separate agency are often in a completely different "title" of the federal code.

Are the Four Categories of OSHA Standards Completely Separate?

Some General Industry standards are universal because not every topic requires industry-specific rules. For example, standards for chemical hazard communication are found in §1910, but they also apply to Construction, Maritime, and Agriculture.

That means that special industries have to pay attention to two sets of standards. The Construction industry must comply with provisions of OSHA 1910 and 1926.

OSHA General Industry vs Construction

Maritime and Agriculture standards apply to a relatively small number of workers. Most of the workforce in the U.S. is covered by OSHA standards for OSHA 10 Construction and OSHA 10 General Industry.

Who Do the OSHA Standards for Construction and General Industry Apply To?

Construction standards apply to anyone engaged in construction work. In many cases the applications are pretty obvious – §1926 applies at sites where construction, renovation, or demolition are underway.

General Industry standards typically apply to any industry except Construction, Maritime, Agriculture, and those with a separate regulating agency. For example, manufacturing, warehousing, retail, office work, and health care all fall under General Industry.

However, the standards don't just apply to a type of workplace; they apply to a type of work. This means that OSHA 1910 and 1926 both apply to some General Industry workplaces.

OSHA defines construction work as "work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating." Yet OSHA considers maintenance to be different from construction.

There's no formal definition to distinguish between the two, but OSHA generally interprets maintenance as work that "keeps equipment working in its existing state, i.e., prevents its failure or decline." They generally considers replacement to be maintenance and improvement to be construction, but they take the scale and complexity of a project into account.

This means that in a field like property management, a worker would be governed by §1910 when they perform a plumbing repair, but §1926 when they renovate and upgrade a kitchen.

What are the Differences in the OSHA Standards for Construction and General Industry?

OSHA standards for Construction and General Industry basically redefine "the devil's in the details."

They often address the same hazards, but they require different solutions or metrics. The differences can seem nit picky, which is why it's important to know whether you're performing maintenance or construction work.

Differences between OSHA 1910 and 1926 include:

  • The height at which fall protection requirements kick in
  • Confined space entry requirements, atmospheric monitoring methods, and permitting processes
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) standards
  • Safety requirements for ladders
  • The acceptable distance to eye-washing stations
  • Specific illumination requirements for construction sites
  • How quickly accident prevention signs need to be removed when a hazard is eliminated

How Are the Four Categories of Standards Related to the Types of OSHA Certification?

As we've said before, "certification" is not a term that OSHA is crazy about, but it's become common vernacular for OSHA's Outreach Training program.

Outreach courses are offered in two levels – a 30-hour Construction & General Industry course if you have supervisory responsibilities and a 10-hour course if you don't. Getting "OSHA certified" is sometimes required by employers in high-risk industries, and sometimes it's required by law.

Like OSHA standards, OSHA certification programs are also divided up by industry. The four categories of OSHA standards almost match up with the four types of OSHA certification, but not quite.

The four categories of OSHA standards are General Industry, Construction, Maritime, and Agriculture.

The four types of OSHA certification are General Industry, Construction, Maritime, and Disaster Site Worker.

OSHA doesn't manage an outreach training program for Agriculture. Even though it's considered separate within their standards, it's lumped in with General Industry for Outreach Training purposes. It's mostly about demand. OSHA does provide resources for agriculture safety training on their website, and you can find the occasional General Industry course that is tailored to agricultural work.

Meanwhile, OSHA has an outreach training program for disaster site workers even though there's no separate standard for the work. Disaster site worker training is designed for "workers who provide skilled support (e.g. utility, demolition, debris removal, or heavy equipment operation) or clean-up services in response to natural and man-made disasters."

Disaster sites have unique hazards and workers need to be trained about them ahead of time, so OSHA designed a special training program. A separate standard isn't necessary, though, because the relevant hazards and precautions are mostly covered under OSHA 1910 and 1926.

Which OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 Should You Take?

With all the overlap, sometimes it can be tough to know which OSHA 10 or which OSHA 30 to take.

The best way is probably to ask your current or prospective employer, but if that's not practical, consider which type of work you'll spend the majority of your time on. If you'll spend most of your time on construction work, you need Construction Outreach. If it's not, then you probably need General Industry.

Either way, we recommend an online course with an OSHA-authorized provider like us. It's convenient, self-paced, and cost-effective. Enroll today!