Wearing Shorts on the Jobsite

OSHA cares how you dress on construction sites. Here's some info and some discussion. April 8, 2008

I've taken on a large cabinet installation job that will take me a least the next month to complete. The weather is warm and I've been wearing shorts for the past two weeks. Today the owner came through and told me that shorts were forbidden on the job-site because of OSHA regulations. Can anyone tell me if this is true or not? I poked around on OSHA website awhile and found it very difficult to search.

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor M:
It's true! It's usually on commercial jobs. Anytime a jobsite is monitored by OSHA, the owner or GC has to stick with the rules. No shorts, no tank tops, no flip-flops. You're lucky they're not making you wear a hard hat! (Or are they?) During summer, it gets really hot and humid where I live. Heat index reaches way over 100 at times. Try to wear loose fit clothing to be as comfortable as possible. Drink water and get some fans too!

From contributor J:
Are you an employee of the owner or a subcontractor? What kind of site are you installing in? If you're a subcontractor, I don't see why you would have to worry about OSHA, unless it's a commercial project? And unless you're on the owner's payroll, he/she shouldn't be worried about it either.

From contributor R:
Contributor M is right - OSHA is OSHA, and it could also be included in the liability policy. Although generally rules are not enforced in tract home developments, they are also covered under OSHA. But more important, he who has the gold (GC) makes the rules.

From contributor C:
I typed in the following on Google: Can I wear shorts on an OSHA jobsite? One of the hits was a Wisconsin construction safety newsletter. After reading that, here is my take. OSHA's premise on clothing in general is that what individuals wear will be sufficient to protect them from hazards at the jobsite. Where there aren't specific hazards that warrant a certain type of uniform or clothing, the dress code is basically enforced by the GC. This is understandable since the buck stops with him. Someone mentioned hardhats. Well, if you are in an area where the possibility of something coming in contact with an individual's melon, more than likely you will be wearing hardhats. Best advice is to get along with the GC and always have steel toe shoes - that is mandatory.

From the original questioner:
I am subcontracting for this cabinet installation. The site is a large McMansion, 7 mil price tag, about 4k sq. ft. There is 500k worth of cabinetry that I am installing on a T&M basis for the trim/millwork sub. Several other subs were also told to not wear shorts anymore - tile setters, HVAC, and plaster guys among them. I think legally it is okay for me to wear them, but it is such a lucrative job for me I would rather not irritate the owner or the other subs. Thanks for the feedback.

From contributor P:
Something like 15 years ago, many of us in Colorado wore shorts, then one year, it all changed. Everybody wears pants on the jobsite, no radios, etc. So I got me some real thin painter's type pants. Much better than jeans. For those jobsites that had the hard hat rule no matter what, well, I had thoughts of learning about explosives, and just blame my problem on an overheated brain. Sweat dripped down on raw wood messes up the finishing... Solved those problems by going back to the shop and working there. Seriously, the thing that bugged me the most was contractors having the trades "all working together." As in, painters, electricians, carpet layers, etc, fighting to see who gets to work in a room.

From contributor S:
Ah, OSHA. It has been several years, but I did in fact spend some time reading many of their "recommendations," and it was truly written to be used as they see fit. While there are many specific procedures and recommendations, there are also a lot that are still open (somewhat) to interpretation. Words and phrases like, "such a manor," "reasonable," "sufficient," "likelihood," and "specific to task at hand."

While no goody two shoes myself, you have to admit that after looking out for the money, the rules are for your own good. Failure to comply and a fine for it is no big deal. Failure to comply and a resulting injury is pretty much stupid. Brain buckets, safety glasses, and sturdy footwear have saved me untold times. Maybe I am a klutz and need the protective wear. My advice, and it will irritate many, is find comfortable protective equipment and use it, including long trousers and eye protection. Being that I have had medical training, I am the one that gets to tend to the injuries on jobsites and haul idiots to the ER. I don't ever recall a smart injury, and one of the most common phrases that the injured tell me is "I knew that this was going to happen." Well, duh! If you even have a suspicion that you are doing something stupid, why continue?

Show up on one of my jobs in tennis shoes, shorts and a tank top and you are going back out the door. Lose a day's work or lose an eye? Gee, tough call. Too hot for trousers, get a job in the AC.

From contributor W:
In my previous career I was a stevedore in New Orleans. Long pants and long sleeves, leather gloves, hardhats, and 6" steel toe boots were standard garb while working in 110 degree ship holds. Drink lots of water, pace yourself, and wear the pants. Quit your complaining.

From contributor U:
Commercial/union type jobs in California require long pants. Some require hardhats. Most residential jobs you can wear what you want.

From contributor K:
I'll agree that you have to be friends with everyone on the job, especially the one paying. On the other hand, I have been hit with the "no shorts" a couple of times and in central Florida, I wear shorts almost everyday. Hard hats I can understand, if needed. Safety glasses also. But the one that got me was, "your extension cord can't have any cuts or nicks in it."

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
Did you know that in the OSHA PPE Standard, clothing, even jeans and shirts can be considered PPE! “Considering the potential for sunburn, dermatitis and skin abrasion, a shirt would be considered PPE in the same manner as goggles, hard hats or respirators.” If you work on a site where it can be reasonably foreseeable where you may come in contact with a hazard that may harm an exposed part of your body then you might want to wear the proper clothing for the job.