The industrial revolution is the key to any country's economic evolution. Each industry plays a specific role in the economic growth of the US; therefore, each sector has its hazards and safety standards. OSHA safety standards are concerned with mainly four industries, including
- Construction industry (Part 1926)
- General Industry (Part 1910)
- Agriculture (29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 1928)
- Maritime (Part 1915, 1917, and 1918)
General industrial refers to the manufacturing, compounding, processing, assembling, and fabrication products. In contrast, the construction industry refers to the industrial sector of manufacturing and trade related to building, repairing, renovating, and maintaining infrastructures.
The two industries are categorically different, and for this purpose, OSHA introduced different safety standards for both industries. All industries within the 29 CFR 1910 regulations that are not part of the construction, agricultural, or maritime sectors are referred to as general industry by OSHA. The rules for the construction industry, outlined in 29 CFR 1926, address particular conditions that prevail on building sites and outline duties for all employers in the sector. Understanding the distinctions between the general industry and construction regulations is crucial to maintaining OSHA compliance. The most conservative criteria should be followed as best practice, regardless of whether the job is performed in general industry or construction.
WHY ARE DIFFERENT STANDARDS USED?
Every industry has its functioning methods, skills, hazards, and solutions. For example, an agriculture employee cannot utilize the skills and training of a construction worker. In 1926-1928, OSHA introduced a different set of safety standards for diverse industries to overcome this loophole. One criterion does not take the place of another or replace it. Even though specific standards overlap, they are independent standards with several glaring discrepancies.
The general industry and construction safety standards differ in various ways, some of which include:
- Standards for cranes: The general industry laws do not address the requirements for crane suspended platforms, material hoists, or personnel hoists, whereas the construction standard does.
- Standards for electric works: All 120-volt outlets used by personnel not part of permanent wiring must have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) or an ensured equipment conductor grounding program, according to the construction standard. The general industry standards do not include GFCIs and ensured grounding procedures.
- Standards for Material-Handling: Unlike the customary industry norms, the building standard includes a table for the spacing and numbering of wire rope clips which is not a requirement for general industry.
- Frequency of Atmosphere Air Monitoring: The construction industry requirement mandates constant atmospheric air monitoring while in the restricted space, whereas, in general industry, atmosphere air monitoring must be periodically evaluated and adjusted as appropriate.
- Engulfment Hazard Monitoring: An early warning system that continuously scans for non-isolated engulfment dangers is necessary on building sites. It must notify the entrance worker(s) with enough time for a safe evacuation from the restricted environment. In contrast, there is no such obligation for monitoring engulfment dangers in the general industry standard.
- Suspending/Canceling Confined Space Permits: Contractors can request a suspension of their confined space licenses if they have a good reason, such as other work nearby posing a risk or lousy weather preventing outdoor operations. In contrast, equal liberty is not permitted in the general industry. In the event that work is put on hold, the employer is required to revoke the restricted space permit and apply for a new one if further entry into the space is needed.
- Atmospheric hazards: The construction industry deals with mainly five potential atmospheric risks, i.e., oxygen, flammable gas, combustible dust, poisonous chemicals, and chemicals at concentrations that are immediately perilous to life or health (IDLH), whereas only three potential air quality dangers are mentioned by general industry: oxygen, combustible gases, and hazardous compounds.
WHERE DOES YOUR WORK FALL?
It is essential to determine the specific course tailored to your choice of industry. This can be tricky as some people may consider general and construction industry standards to be "commutable." However, as stated above, the two industries are entirely different in their operations, training, and safety and are not at all interchangeable. Here are some guidelines to determine your field of work and which courses to take:
- OSHA does not define "maintenance" as construction. In 1999, OSHA clarified that "maintenance operations" are actions taken regularly, scheduled, or anticipated to ensure that a structure, fixture, or foundation is in good condition.
This concept means maintaining equipment in its current state of operation. However, each situation must be examined individually to determine if a corporation is engaging in maintenance operations instead of construction activities.
- On November 18th' 2003, OSHA stated that construction operations are not limited to new projects but can also include repairing and replacing existing facilities and structures. For example, replacing one streetlight or utility pole with a similar pole will be classified as maintenance work, while replacing it with an improvised pole will be considered construction.
- Non-construction companies can perform construction work under OSHA's standards.
- The job can be performed by a company's employee or an outsider.
- The job's intricacy and deadline can have an impact. For example, OSHA is more likely to classify an operation as construction than maintenance the more complex it is.
In conclusion, over the years, OSHA has worked very hard to introduce safety standards that cater to the need of each industry individually. These safety standards eliminate the myth that construction and general industry standards are interchangeable. There are no guidelines for an employer to follow when deciding whether to use general industry OSHA standards or construction standards. OSHA gives recommendations, but the employer must choose which standard to apply in each situation. The employer may have to frequently make this decision on a scenario basis and adhere to the standard's more stringent standards when in doubt.