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OSHA - Maintenance versus construction

image Joann Natarajan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, OSHA, Austin, TX

AUSTIN - OSHA has both construction and general industry regulations. Construction activities fall under 29 CFR 1926, and maintenance activities fall under OSHA’s general industry regulations codified at 29 CFR 1910.






    Though the OSHA regulations for construction and general industry frequently agree, there are some differences.  OSHA’s regulations define construction work as “construction, alteration, and/or repair, including painting and decorating.” Section 1910.12(a) further provides that OSHA’s construction industry standards apply “to every employment and place of employment of every employee engaged in construction work.”
    Unlike construction work, there is no regulatory definition for “maintenance,” nor a specified distinction between terms such as “maintenance,” “repair,” or “refurbishment.” “Maintenance activities” have commonly been defined in dictionaries as making or keeping a structure, fixture or foundation (substrates) in proper condition in a routine, scheduled, or anticipated fashion. OSHA has stated that maintenance involves keeping equipment working in its existing state, i.e., preventing its failure or decline.
    Construction work is not limited to new construction, but can include the repair of existing facilities or the replacement of structures and their components. For example, the replacement of one utility pole with a new, identical pole would be maintenance; however, if it were replaced with an improved pole or equipment, it would be considered construction.
    Additionally, the scale and complexity of the project are relevant. This takes into consideration concepts such as the amount of time and material required to complete the job. For example, if a steel beam in a building had deteriorated and was to be replaced by a new, but identical beam, the project would be considered a construction repair rather than maintenance because of the replacement project’s scale and complexity. If a bridge was to be stripped and re-painted, that would be considered construction work even if the repainting were done on a scheduled basis. Replacement of a section of limestone cladding on a building, though not necessarily a large project in terms of scale, would typically be considered construction because it is a complex task in view of the steps involved and tools and equipment needed to do the work.
    Work that is anticipated, routine, and done on a regularly scheduled/periodic basis to help maintain the original condition of the component will be suggestive of “maintenance,” although this must be considered in light of the scale of the project.  If the work consists of repair as opposed to replacement, a key factor is whether those repairs are extensive. If the work consists of removal and replacement of equipment, an important factor is whether the new equipment is of an improved type. For both cases of repair and replacement, a key factor is the scale of the project, including the extent to which other equipment or structures must be moved or altered.

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