June 15, 2010
The following question comes from a lawn maintenance and landscape construction firm: “We as a landscape company have allowed employees to wear shorts in the summer. I just don’t see the big hazard. It’s common with many other companies. It reduces heat stress dramatically. I realize there may be some loss of protection from injury. Although, we don’t wear long sleeved shirts, do we? To your knowledge, is it written in law that pants are mandatory?”

Landscape Ontario asked Roy Ford, provincial specialist, Industrial Health and Safety Program with the Ontario Ministry of Labour:

“Neither the Occupational Health and Safety Act, nor the construction/industrial regulations address the issue of wearing shorts on construction sites.

“The construction regulations require that a worker wear and use protective clothing and equipment that are necessary to protect them against the hazards that they may be exposed to. Section 25 of the construction regulations deals with the specific issue of the risk of injury to the worker’s skin:

 A worker shall use protection appropriate in the circumstances when there is a risk of injury on a project from contact between the worker’s skin and,
(a) a noxious gas, liquid, fume or dust;
(b) an object that may puncture, cut or abrade the skin;
(c) a hot object, hot liquid or molten metal; or
(d) radiant heat.
“As well, under the OHSA, the employer has a duty to ensure the health and safety of employees by identifying the potential hazards that the workers may be exposed to and developing policies and procedures to control the workers’ exposure to those hazards. Therefore, the employer may have specific policies regarding the type of clothing that is required to be worn while working at, or visiting construction/industrial sites, and the worker should consult with the employer to determine if they have such a policy.

“Regardless of the policies that the employer may have, if a Ministry of Labour health and safety inspector visits a construction/industrial site and determines that workers are exposed to hazards to the skin, the inspector would require that workers at the site are suitably protected from these hazards. However, as conditions from site to site, or even at different points in time on the same site, may vary, the determination of what type of protective clothing/equipment is required would be made on a case by case basis.”