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What are Your OSHA Compliance Obligations in the Construction Industry?

By Mark Moran, Contributor

As an employer in the construction industry your OSHA obligations fall into three general categories:

  1. A general duty to maintain a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to your employees. That is part of the OSH Act known as the General Duty Clause”. Its wording is rather ambiguous and indefinite. It is not used very often as the basis for the citation and it is not supposed to be;
  2. Observe all applicable Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHA Standards) in the Construction Industry (1926) promulgated by the Secretary of Labor. There are thousands of OSHA Most OSHA citations to date have alleged violations of OSHA Standards. Understanding and observing them is, therefore the most important of the three employer responsibilities listed here; and
  3. Virtually every employer is obligated to keep records of their employee’s recordable injuries and illnesses, report work- related employee fatalities and multiple hospitalizations to OSHA, and display an OSHA supplied poster that provides general information on the OSH Act.

What are the OSHA Construction Standards?

Shortly after the OSH Act went into effect in 1971, the Secretary of Labor, under the authority delegated by Congress, adopted thousands of Occupational Safety and Health Standards. In subsequent years, additional standards have been added and some of those standards have since been revised.

Job safety and health standards generally consist of rules for avoidance of hazards that have been proven by research and experience to be harmful to personal safety and health.

The standards supposedly constitute an extensive compilation of wisdom. They sometimes apply to all employers, as do fire protection standards, for example. A great many standards, however apply only to workers while engaged in specific types of work, such as driving a Forklift truck or handling compressed gases. Two examples are shown below:

Example No. 1 – First Aid & Medical

Example No. 2 – Fall Protection

It is the obligation of all employers and employees to familiarize themselves with the OSHA Standards that apply to them, and to observe them always. Once an OSHA Standard has been adopted, it is published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

The CFR is divided into 50 “titles” that cover all regulations, adopted by all Federal agencies. Each “title” is designated by a number beginning with “1” and ending with “50”. The OSHA Standards are part of the Title 29, the section of the CFR assigned to labor regulations.

Title 29 is further subdivided into various CFR “Parts” covering specific regulatory areas. We are only concerned with three of the CFR Parts that apply to private employers as follows:

Complying with OSHA Requirements

The heart of OSHA compliance is becoming aware of its published standards, which address specific hazards. The standards are divided into four major categories based on the type of work being performed. The four groups of standards are

  1. Construction (29 CFR Part §1926);
  2. General Industry (29 CFR Part 1910§;
  3. Maritime (29 CFR Parts §1915, §1917, §1918, and §1919); and
  4. Agriculture (29 CFR Part 1928).

We will focus on 29 CFR Part §1926, which is Construction Industry Standards

Construction Industry (29 CFR Part §1926) – Includes standards for Fall Protection, exit routes; emergency action plans and fire prevention plans (means of egress); work platforms; ventilation; radiation; hazardous materials; personal protective equipment; sanitation; medical and first aid; fire protection; compressed gas/air equipment; material handling and storage; machinery and machine guarding; welding, cutting and brazing; electrical wiring and electronics; commercial diving; toxic and hazardous substances.

Construction industry standards apply to any type of employment in any industry, including General Industry, shipyard employment, and agriculture, to the extent that standards for these other industries do not apply.

There is also a general duty under OSHA to maintain a safe workplace, which covers all situations for which there are no published standards. Thus, you aren’t off the hook merely because you complied with all the specific written standards that apply to you. You also must be aware of safety hazards that come with new technology or unusual situations the government might not have thought of.

Complying with the Construction Industry Standards (29 CFR Part §1926) requires many different types of activities:

  • Installing physical safeguards or engineering controls (for example: guardrails or fire extinguishers);
  • Meeting work practice requirements through employee training, company work rules, and supervision on the job;
  • Monitoring for air contaminants;
  • Providing employees with personal protective equipment;
  • Conducting tests and inspections of equipment;
  • Recordkeeping; and
  • Using safety devices and equipment

OSHA Construction standards have the same status and effect as regulations adopted under other federal laws similar to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Code, for example. You must comply with them, or you can be penalized with citations and fines.

One of the many thousands of occupational safety and health (OSHA) construction standards are listed below in order to demonstrate the form of such standards.

“Employees working in areas where there is a possible danger of head injury from impact, or from falling or flying objects, or from electrical shock and burns, shall be protected by protective helmets. “It is the obligation of all employers and employees to familiarize themselves with the OSHA construction standards that apply to them and to observe the standards at all times.



PART 1926




If Your Business is: Your company must observe

An employer must comply with the safety and health regulations in Part 29 CFR 1926 if its employees are “engaged in construction work” (29 CFR 1926.12(b)). This is defined as “work for construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating that no contractor or subcontractor contracting for any part of the contract work shall require any laborer or mechanic employed in the performance of the contract to work in surroundings or under working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to his health or safety, as determined under construction safety and health standards is being performed”.

Part 1926 Construction standards include (Subpart A through Subpart CC), but Subparts A and B apply only to determining the scope of section 107 of the Construction Safety Act, 40 USC 333. That Act applies only to employers who are engaged in construction under contract with the US government. OSHA does not base citations upon either Subpart A or B. Consequently, no further consideration will be given to them. Employers engaged in construction should read over each of those subparts and identify those that could be applicable to their own operations, and then read the discussion of those subparts that follows.

The remaining 26 subparts are listed below:

Subpart C General Safety and Health Provisions
Subpart D Occupational Health and Environmental Controls
Subpart E Personal Protective and Life Saving Equipment
Subpart F Fire Protection and Prevention
Subpart G Signs, Signals and Barricades
Subpart H Materials Handling, Storage Use and Disposal
Subpart I Tools – Hand and Power
Subpart J Welding and cutting
Subpart K Electrical
Subpart L Scaffolding
Subpart M Fall Protection
Subpart N Cranes, Derricks, Hoists, Elevators, and Conveyors
Subpart O Motor Vehicles, Mechanized Equipment, and Marine Operations
Subpart P Excavations
Subpart Q  Concrete and Masonry Construction
Subpart R Steel Erection
Subpart S Underground Construction, Caissons, Cofferdams, and Compressed Air
Subpart T Demolition
Subpart U Blasting and the Use of Explosives
Subpart V Power Transmission and Distribution
Subpart W Rollover Protective Structures & Overhead Protection
Subpart X Stairways and Ladders
Subpart Y Commercial Diving Operations
Subpart Z Toxic/ Hazardous Substances
Subpart AA Confined Spaces
Subpart CC Cranes & Derricks

Mark Moran is currently the President of OSHA, a software company dedicated to helping businesses comply with safety regulations. He also is the author of a book called “The OSHA Answer Book for the Construction Industry”. To receive a 15% discount, call 1-855-872-6742 or go to

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