The dangers of wearing shorts in a machine shop

Group,
It is my company policy to wear shorts anytime it gets over 80 degrees outside. Here in Southern California that happens a lot. For the second time this month I was denied access to a customers shop because my uniform includes shorts. I have short hair, wore safety glasses and steel toed shoes as well as no jewelry and wearing shorts made me a safety hazard. Other than people being distracted by my muscular calves what possible hazard could wearing shorts in a shop violate? *Note, both companies are huge management intense companies. One is union the other is an excellent target for one. For one I went out and bought some pants, today I was given a one size fits all painters over smock. I was way more unsafe in that than if I just wore shorts. The absurdity of the situation was quite amusing to everyone who saw me. No one enforcing the rule could explain why shorts are a safety hazard. I think it is an OSHA rule is the only explanation I got. Does anyone else have a no shorts rule and what is the explanation? It isn't worth losing business over so now I just keep a spare pair of long pants in my truck just in case. The first time I heard "we can't let you in with shorts." I thought they were kidding. The second time got me wondering how many people have that rule?
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Bill Roberto wrote:

Interesting question. I'd never wear shorts to work; but, when I read your post, I had to think a moment before I realized why. And my reasoning goes something like this:
Why do we wear work clothes at all? Why not wear our best looking clothes, or our most expensive clothes, or the ones that will most impress our bosses and co-workers with designer names and the most current trends? Why do so many companies provide uniforms for workers? Why are those uniforms always rugged and utilitarian, rather than designer sexy? The obvious reason is cost. You can wash the heck out of a Cintas uniform, and use it over and over almost forever. But that fact leads to another reason, even more important than the cost of the uniform.
If I have to worry, or even to think, about getting dirty, tearing my clothing, ruining an expensive shirt or pair of pants with grease stains, or chip burns, or whatever, then I'm not nearly as likely to GET grease stains or chip burns. I'm going to avoid anything that might produce them. I'll work carefully, handle things gingerly, and generally behave like someone who doesn't want to get dirty. But if I can treat my clothing like it's basically indestructible (or at least cost-free to me), then I don't even think twice about climbing into the dirty end of a big machine to find out what's wrong with it. I'll go right ahead and lean into a lathe to retrieve a dropped allen wrench from the chip conveyor. I'll belly right up to the ugliest beast in the shop and deal with it on its own terms. In other words, I'll work harder, be less distracted by cost and appearance, and will probably do a better job than if I was afraid to get dirty.
I think short pants are the same kind of thing. If I have to worry about skinning my shins on the coolant pump when squeezing behind the machine, then that can get in the way of my job. If I can't kneel down to look under something without cutting or skinning my knees, then I might not look all that carefully. If I have to dodge hot chips that could land on my ankles and send me hopping around like an idiot, then my general, overall ability to run a machine that tosses hot chips can be seriously and significantly compromised.
As a clear, black and white safety issue, I can't see that short pants are a problem in most shops. But as a matter of fitting in to the environment of a machine shop, I think they can actually make a big difference.
Consider this: Short sleeve shirts are an obvious safety thing. Nobody wants to get a shirt sleeve caught on a rotating tool or workpiece and get his ass wrapped into a tight, broken little spiral that only paramedics can untangle. But I keep a heavy, long sleeved coverall in the bottom drawer of my toolbox for those times when the machine isn't rotating, and I have to go play in the chips and the oil and the coagulated coolant in order to get it rotating again. In that case, long sleeves protect me, and make me MORE likely to do what needs to be done. I don't poke around cautiously for fear of scratching my elbows. I don't curse at the thought that my new Gucci leather belt will forever smell like Vactra #2. And I don't care that I look like a sewer rat when I climb back out of the machine with a broken part in my filthy hands. The coverall protects me. And it even excuses the way I look. It says, in effect, that I have a good reason for being so disgusting, and that I'm to be respected for the fact that I WILL do the nasty jobs when I need to, and that I've made sure I'm properly equipped for them.
So, short sleeves might be a standard safety issue; but, under certain circumstances, bare arms can be a liability, and could get in the way of my work. Bare legs likewise. Since there's no good reason (as with arms) to keep legs uncovered, it only make sense to keep them protected from even the smallest hazzards, so that those hazzards (even just plain old dirt) don't get in the way of our work.
And, I suspect that there's a cultural aspect to all of this, as well. In general, in our culture, short pants are considered casual wear. They connote leisure, relaxation, and situations where comfort is paramount. At work, comfort is typically expected to place no better than third on the list of priorities, right behind safety and efficiency. Wearing shorts therefore implies that our own lists are ordered differently, and that we might not be as committed, as hardworking, and as professional, as we could be.
Even if we really are outstanding workers, the image we present is important. People - like bosses, customers, and co-workers - never EVER make judgements or decisions based on facts. They can't. Human nature makes that impossible. They, and we, make our decisions based on what we THINK are the facts. We can't look into someone's mind and verify that he or she is working hard, or trying to beat the heat in order to do a BETTER job. We can only see what's on the outside, and try to estimate what it means. John is wearing the expected, appropriate clothing, from the short sleeves of his Roebucks pocket tee shirt to the cuffless bottoms of the pant legs landing on the tops of his Red Wing safety shoes. He's on the ball, ready to go, and won't allow fashion, vanity, or personal taste, to get in the way of his job. Joe, on the other hand, looks like he's dressed for a day at the beach. His short pants and moccassins might be cool and comfortable; but I can't call him into the office to answer questions for the customer who's come to visit. I surely can't send him over to the welding shop to check on those fixtures we're waiting for. I wonder if he really crawled behind the Okuma to see if the chip pans were clogged - or did he just peek at them from a distance and TELL me they were all right? Shit! I pay good money for skilled people. I buy the best equipment I can afford. I spend a fortune on tools, and supplies, and even on keeping the shop clean and safe and comfortable. Why is it too much to ask that people act like professionals when they come to work? How do they expect me to treat them like professionals if they can't even do a simple thing like choosing the right clothes when they wake up in the morning? If Joe likes wearing shorts so much, maybe he should go work for UPS. I don't think he's gonna make it around here.
Just my two cents worth. Happy Independence weekend, everyone.
KG
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Kirk Gordon wrote:

Wow, I just gave Kirk a good listening to. The work I do is either in a 110 degree humid programming office or out in front of 120 degree humid shop setting up a 2 to 5 axis cnc lathe or a 3 to 4 axis cnc mill. I am dressed for the job with no inhibitions. I wear work shorts, Red Wing safety shoes, safety glasses, and a work shirt with 2 pockets full of work related materials. A programmable calculator and a laptop complete the ensamble. Now I carry lomg pants and a coverall in my truck at all times. If your machine was down, and you couldn't find anyone to set it up and you are to busy to do it yourself, you wouldn't be as conscerned about my shorts. Neal has it right. It is a just because I say so rule.
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