June 15, 2011
I enjoy reading Sally Harvey’s columns in Horticulture Review each month. The past article (May issue, page 9, Prepare for summer safety issues) has a paragraph concerning the issue of wearing shorts.

Our company does not allow shorts. Two years ago we had a critical injury when one of our employees was hit by a skid steer, and had his leg broken. Throughout and after the ensuing investigation, we had no orders or fines against us and all our training and paperwork were in place.

The incident occurred around the same time we instituted our policy about not wearing shorts. As you can imagine, this was met with some resistance from our employees. I took the opportunity to discuss the shorts issue at length with the Ministry of Labour inspectors who were working on our file. The two gentlemen we dealt with were both of the opinion that in landscape construction, there is no grey area — we are considered construction, and therefore no shorts are allowed.

In our maintenance duties, they felt the only time shorts may be OK would be during the cultivating or edging of gardens. They said anytime we were using machines (cutting, trimming, weeding, etc.) pants would be required.

The other thing they said was that in the end, each inspector has the right to interpret rules as they see fit. This was an acknowledgement for me that there are a lot of grey areas which are subject to interpretation.

After all is said and done, I am glad none of our guys had shorts on the day of the above-noted incident. Our H&S consultant said that both inspectors seemed to have had more of an industrial background, but I’m not sure if that was good or bad. Most of our employees now use pants made by Coolworks, which zip off at the bottom. However, there is still a sturdy mesh underneath, allowing for air circulation. These do meet MOL requirements. Another step we have taken is that anyone using hedge trimmers must wear chainsaw chaps. We all know someone who has at some time nicked their leg using this machinery.

Leon Denbok CLP, CLT
Denbok Landscaping and Design, Burlington