The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) leaves the regulation of protective clothing up to the employer except in construction situations involving asbestos and lead. The comfort of wearing short trousers versus long trousers must be balanced against safety concerns.
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OSHA General Regulations
Shorts and long trousers can be considered protective clothing. During construction, your employer may decide that long trousers are necessary for safety. Because construction conditions vary so widely, OSHA requires protective clothing and equipment to be worn whenever chemical, mechanical or radiological contaminants or irritants can cause injury through inhalation, physical contact or absorption through the skin.
Your whole body must be covered if you are exposed to asbestos during construction, according to OSHA regulations. Respirators must be used. Clothing must be carefully packaged and laundered at the work site and be checked for any rips or tears. You may be able to wear shorts or long trousers underneath protective clothing.
When working with unsafe levels of lead in construction, workers must wear protective clothing that shields their eyes and skin. Disposable shoe covers and coveralls may be worn over short or long trousers but the protective clothing can't go home with you or enter your car.
Asphalt and Hot Tar
Summer construction work comes with heat stress dangers, yet working with asphalt or hot tar can burn the skin if it is exposed. Employers must balance the need to wear protective clothing such as long trousers, against extremely warm weather when construction involves laying asphalt or hot tar on roads.
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- United States Department of Labor: Safety and Health Regulations for Construction: General
- U.S. Department of Labor: Safety and Health Regulations for Construction: Asbestos
- U.S. Department of Labor: Lead Exposure in Construction:
- U.S. Department of Labor: Memorandum: Citations for the Wearing of Short Pants by Employees Engaged in Hot Tar and Asphalt Construction Work