By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

Well, it’s time again for the annual question from road departments. “Are we allowed to wear shorts during the summer months”? This is a question that I was asked frequently as a Highway Superintendent and now I am asked as the NIRMA Road Safety Loss Prevention Specialist. My usual response is, what do your county or department policies say about workwear attire? Generally, counties do not have anything on this topic written into their policies and this is understandable. It seems that the topic has evolved over the last few years.

Generally county road departments are considered in the job category with the construction industry. With all the potential hazards that the construction industry has I would really be hesitant allowing anyone to wear shorts to work. My recommendation regarding shorts is simple – don’t wear them to work. The extra layer of protection that pants provide can save us from cuts and scrapes that we are exposed to daily.

This brings me to the topic of all PPE. I want to remind everyone that all employees working in the road right-of-way are required to wear high visibility apparel. The following is taken directly from the latest MUTCD:

All workers, including emergency responders, within the right-of-way who are exposed either to traffic (vehicles using the highway for purposes of travel) or to work vehicles and construction equipment within the TTC zone shall wear high-visibility safety apparel that meets the Performance Class 2 or 3 requirements of the ANSI/ISEA 107–2004 publication entitled “American National Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear”.

As I visit counties I hear “yes we have vests” but seldom do I hear that you are wearing them on a regular basis. PPE is used to prevent accidents and injuries. It really does no good hanging on the breakroom chairs or over the backrest of the equipment we are operating. I know that when I first began wearing a safety vest, I didn’t feel like I needed it, nothing was going to happen to me. But as I soon found out, not only does the vest make us visible to the motoring public that we deal with daily, but it also helps our co-workers see us better on the construction site. I had a co-worker that always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. MANY times, I was sure glad that he was wearing the hi-vis vest because I could see him better while I was running equipment.

Are your departments requiring the use of the appropriate PPE, to include but not limited to gloves, safety toe footwear, face shields, safety glasses and chainsaw chaps? We don’t put PPE on every morning with the anticipation of getting struck, cut, or scratched but I’m sure we are all thankful we had it on when something did happen. I would also like to say that I’m sure your family is happy that you had it on too.

Safety is something we take for granted living in the United States, but it is something we need to think about every day. We have all heard that safety is a culture, and it is, it should be the number one focus of our jobs, above all else- safety first. I’m sure many of you have some examples of near-hits that come to mind, and you’re probably thankful that they were near-hits and no injuries.

All counties should review their department policies concerning PPE and update them as needed. The world is not getting any safer. Please, let’s take the time and make sure everyone makes it home every night. Be safe!

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or training requests please let me know. I can be reached at or (cell) 402-310-4417.