Understanding OSHA Standards for Construction and General Industry: A Comprehensive Guide to Workplace Safety


workplace safety

Construction and the general industry are infamous for being among the most hazardous workplaces, with a significant number of injuries and fatalities recorded annually. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, construction sites alone account for 150,000 injuries each year. The leading causes of workplace fatalities in 2021-2022 include falls from heights, being struck by moving objects, such as flying and falling objects and being hit by moving vehicles, collectively accounting for over half of all workplace fatalities during that period.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays a crucial role in setting and implementing standards that will protect workers in different sectors, especially in construction and the general industry. This article aims to delve deep into the OSHA standards for construction and general industry, shedding light on the regulations employers must follow, the precautions employees should take, and the importance of maintaining a secure work environment. Let's explore this critical aspect of workplace safety and understand the significance of OSHA standards.

What are the OSHA Standards for Construction & General Industry?

OSHA's standards for Construction and General Industry are outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) found in Title 29 CFR Part 1926 for Construction Industry standards and Title 29 CFR Part 1910 for General Industry standards.

Differences between OSHA's standards for Construction and General Industry lie in the tailored regulations and requirements for each sector's unique hazards and work environments. These standards are continuously updated to address new challenges and technological advancements in the workplace. Let's delve into the distinctions between these two sets of standards.

Scope of Work:

  • OSHA's standards for construction are applicable to activities directly related to the construction, alteration, and repair of structures, including buildings, highways, bridges, and other infrastructure projects.
  • OSHA's standards for general industry cover a broader range of non-construction workplaces, such as manufacturing facilities, warehouses, healthcare facilities, and service industries.

Hazards Addressed:

  • Construction sites encompass specific risks, such as trench collapses, falls from great heights, and hazards associated with operating heavy equipment. OSHA's construction standard, therefore, focuses on addressing these particular risks.
  • OSHA’s standard for general industry regulations covers risks typically present in industrial and non-construction contexts, including machine guarding, hazardous materials handling, and confined spaces.


  • OSHA's standards for construction apply to workers involved in construction-related activities, including contractors, subcontractors, and construction workers.
  • OSHA’s standard for general industry standards applies to a wide range of workers across various industries, excluding those explicitly covered by other specialized OSHA standards (e.g., maritime and agriculture).

Training Requirements:

  • While both sets of standards emphasize the importance of employee training, the topics and focus of training differ.
  • OSHA’s standard for construction often requires specific training on scaffolding, fall protection, and equipment operation, while OSHA’s standards for the general industry focus on training on machine operation, hazardous energy control procedures, and emergency control action plans.

Fall Protection Thresholds:

  • OSHA's standard for construction mandates fall protection for construction workers at heights of six feet or more.
  • OSHA’s standards for the general industry have a lower threshold, requiring fall protection at heights of four feet or more.

Respiratory Protection:

  • Although both sets of standards have provisions for respiratory protection, they may differ in specific requirements based on the nature of the work. For instance, construction standards may focus on protection against dust and particulates, while General Industry standards may address exposure to chemical vapors.

Hazard Communication:

  • OSHA’s standards for Construction & General Industry have hazard communication requirements, but the substances and chemicals commonly encountered in each sector may differ, necessitating tailored communication protocols.


  • OSHA’s standards for construction and general industry require employers to maintain injury and illness records for workers, but the types of records and reporting requirements may vary due to the different nature of the workplaces.

Specific Equipment Regulations:

  • OSHA's Construction standards have specific regulations for equipment like cranes, derricks, and scaffolding, which are commonly used in construction sites.
  • General Industry standards may have specific regulations for industrial machinery, conveyors, and forklifts.

Emergency Action Plans:

  • While both sets of standards require emergency action plans, the details and specific procedures may differ based on the type of emergencies common in each sector.

OSHA’s standards for construction and general industry are tailored to address the hazards and risks that workers face daily. These hazards, commonly referred to as the "Fatal Four," account for a significant number of workplace fatalities.

What are the FATAL Four?

energy control procedure

The "Fatal Four" is a term used by OSHA to refer to the four most common causes of fatalities in both the construction and general industry. These hazards are responsible for a significant number of workplace deaths and are crucial areas of focus for promoting worker safety. The Fatal Four are the same for both industries and include:

Fall: Falls, from rooftops, ladders, scaffolding, or platforms, are the main cause of fatalities in both construction and general industry. Workers can also fall into holes or pits.

Struck by Object: This involves workers being hit by objects, debris, or equipment. In construction, it includes falling debris and moving equipment. In general industry, workers may be struck by objects from shelves or moving machinery.

Electrocutions: Electrocutions happen when workers contact live electrical sources, leading to shock or electrocution. It occurs in both construction and general industry while working with electrical systems, equipment, or power lines. Following safety standards, using protective gear, and implementing lockout/tagout procedures prevent electrocutions.

Caught-in/Between: This category involves workers being trapped or crushed between objects, equipment, or machinery. In construction, it includes trench collapses, heavy machinery accidents, or being pinned between vehicles. In general industry, it can happen during manufacturing processes or while working with machinery.

What are the OSHA Standards for Construction

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established several standards that address different aspects of construction work. These standards are designed to prevent accidents, injuries, and fatalities that may occur in hazardous work environments.

  • Fall Protection (29 CFR 1926.501): This standard by OSHA mandates the implementation of fall protection systems for employees working at heights. This includes guardrails, safety nets, and personal fall arrest systems.
  • Scaffolding (29 CFR 1926.451): This standard is a guideline for the safe use of scaffolding, including proper assembly, inspection, and employee training, which are covered under OSHA standards to prevent falls and accidents.
  • Excavation and Trenching Safety (29 CFR 1926.650): OSHA emphasizes the proper design and protective measures for excavations and trenches to prevent cave-ins and related hazards.
  • Lockout Tagout (29 CFR 1926.417): In construction, Lockout Tagout (LOTO) is a safety procedure to keep workers safe during maintenance, repairs, or servicing of machinery. The process involves isolating the energy sources, such as electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, or pneumatic, and securing them with lockout devices or tags to prevent accidental energization during work. LOTO procedure is crucial for worker safety and compliance with regulations.
  • Electrical (29 CFR 1926 Subpart K): This standard focuses on electrical safety in construction work, covering topics such as wiring methods, equipment, and the use of electrical tools.

OSHA Standards in General Industry

  • Walking-Working Surfaces (29 CFR 1910 Subpart D): General industry standards address the safe use of walking and working surfaces, including floors, stairways, and platforms.
  • Machine Guarding (29 CFR 1910.212): OSHA requires that machines be properly guarded to prevent amputations and other injuries caused by moving parts.
  • Hazard Communication (29 CFR 1910.1200): This standard mandates the communication of potential chemical hazards in the workplace through labeling, safety data sheets (SDS), and employee training.
  • Respiratory Protection (29 CFR 1910.134): General industry standards also address respiratory protection when workers are exposed to harmful dust, fumes, or gasses.
  • Lockout Tagout (29 CFR 1910.147): For General Industry, this standard deals with the control of hazardous energy during servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment to prevent unexpected startup and injuries, just like the Construction Industry standard.

OSHA’s Standard for Construction & General Industry: Lockout Tagout Program

lockout tagout program

OSHA's Standard for Construction and General Industry involves Lockout & Tagout procedure and is covered under 29 CFR 1910.147 - Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout). This standard aims to protect workers from the unexpected energization or startup of machinery or equipment during servicing or maintenance, which could result in serious injuries or even fatalities. The LOTO program involves the following key elements:

Energy Control Program: Employers must develop and implement a comprehensive energy control procedures outline, training, and responsibilities for LOTO. This program should be written, and all affected employees must have access to it.

Equipment Identification: The standard requires the identification of all energy sources and the equipment that needs LOTO procedures. Each energy source must be clearly labeled or tagged to inform workers about its status.

Lockout Devices: Employers must provide durable lockout devices that can securely isolate energy sources to prevent accidental activation. Each authorized employee working on the equipment should have their individual lockout device.

Tagout Devices: Tagout devices should be used in conjunction with lockout procedures. These tags are attached to the energy-isolating device to warn others not to activate the equipment and that maintenance work is ongoing.

Lockout/Tagout Procedures: Specific written procedures for each piece of equipment must be developed, detailing the proper steps for isolating and de-energizing the machinery, as well as the safe release of stored energy.

Training and Communication: Employers are required to provide proper training to authorized employees who perform maintenance or servicing activities. Workers must understand the energy control program, LOTO procedures, and the significance of following them accurately.

Inspections and Periodic Reviews: Regular inspections of the LOTO procedures and the energy control procedures are necessary to verify their effectiveness. Employers should conduct periodic reviews to update the procedures and ensure compliance with any changes in equipment or regulations.

Group Lockout/Tagout: In situations where multiple employees are involved in maintenance or servicing activities, a group lockout/tagout procedure should be followed to ensure the safety of everyone involved.

Shift or Personnel Changes: Proper procedures must be in place to ensure a seamless transition during shift or personnel changes to prevent accidental equipment activation.

OSHA's Standard for Lockout Tagout (LOTO) Procedures During Shift Change

OSHA’s standard for Construction & General industry has specific requirements for Lockout Tagout (LOTO) procedures during shift changes. It is crucial to communicate effectively and follow proper procedures to ensure the safe transfer of equipment from one personnel to another and prevent accidental energization of machinery or equipment. Here are the key aspects of OSHA's Standard for LOTO procedures during shift change:

  • Clear Communication Protocol: Employers must inform incoming shifts about ongoing maintenance, locked-out equipment, reasons, and authorized employees.
  • Shift Handover Responsibility: Outgoing employees must brief incoming workers on LOTO status, and devices used, and emphasize its importance.
  • Pre-Shift Verification: Incoming employees must confirm equipment status and check lockout/tagout devices for effectiveness.
  • Establish Clear Communication: Employers must create effective channels for LOTO information exchange between shifts.
  • Authorized & Trained Personnel: Only trained employees should handle equipment transfer, knowing LOTO procedures and hazards.
  • Supervisory Oversight: Supervisors monitor LOTO compliance during shift change, confirming proper equipment isolation and device use.
  • Final Equipment Inspection: Before removing LOTO devices, conduct a thorough check for tools, materials, and complete maintenance.
  • Shift Change LOTO Records: Employers must maintain clear records of communication, equipment status, and involved employees.

Following OSHA's standards for construction & general industry and prioritizing safety is crucial for a secure workplace and the well-being of all employees. Employers, workers, and supervisors must collaborate to uphold these standards and make safety a top priority. This will help reduce accidents and fatalities in both construction and general industry.


What are OSHA general industry standards?

OSHA general industry standards are regulations set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that apply to a wide range of non-construction workplaces. They cover safety requirements for various industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, warehousing, and service sectors.

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

The main difference is in the scope of work and hazards addressed. OSHA standards for construction apply to activities related to building and infrastructure construction, while general industry standards cover non-construction workplaces. The regulations are tailored to each sector's unique risks.

Does LOTO apply to construction?

Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) in construction is a safety procedure that involves isolating energy sources on machinery and securing them with lockout devices or tags. This prevents accidental startup or energization during maintenance, repairs, or servicing, ensuring worker safety.

Tips for contractors applying LOTO procedures at their client’s facility:

  • Familiarize yourself with the client's specific LOTO procedures and equipment.
  • Train your employees on the client's LOTO protocols and potential hazards.
  • Ensure proper use of lockout devices and tags during maintenance activities.
  • Communicate effectively with the client's staff about ongoing LOTO procedures.
  • Conduct regular inspections to verify the effectiveness of LOTO measures.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.