• Michael Wilson
    I had a question from another company. What do you do if you change your PPE requirements to include a respirator and one of your staff has a beard.

    1. Spend the extra for a full hood/powered respirator?
    2. Require your staff member to shave the beard to fit (risking that they will end up with a goatee and be mistaken for a magician)?
    3. Something else?
  • Campbell Hardy
    ha ha... got to be number 2 surely??? On a more serious note I believe the fire service require staff to shave in order to use BA equipment effectively. Would encourage a staff workshop to set the new standard and if you haven't already establish a guide or procedure to further suppor the activity.
  • Chris Hyndman

    Hi Michael, I came across the same issue last year when an occupational hygienist found the method of applying a chemical substance resulted in exposure levels reaching the WEL. The gentleman who carried out the task had a beard as old as I am so, due to no other methods of application being viable, we had no choice but go for option 1.

    Option 2 is difficult to get over the line if it wasn't a prerequisite for the job, until my current role I have been lucky enough to work in industries that made this very clear at the job application/interview stage.

    The obvious answer to option 3 would be to remove, substitute or treat the hazard, (or remove the hairy person from the task if that is an option). If not then you'll have to take the cost of RPE on the chin (pun intended). :smile:

    Experience to pass on if you do go down the RPE hood route is to give the potential wearer a choice of hoods to trial prior to purchase in order to gauge the comfort and visibility. Include the wearing of the hose and battery/filter pack in this trial as they may get in the way or restrict movement when carrying out the task.

    The cheaper option is the soft top type, but obviously this is only an option if you have no requirement to protect the head from any impact injuries.
  • Rob McAulay
    Great points, I would also suggest you would need to check around any religious or cultural issues the employee may have regarding the growing of a beard. :-)
  • Stuart Keer-Keer
    Some options are:-

    1. Put in the employment contract that employees must be clean shaven. I know of two companies that do just that.

    2. Use a positive pressure mask. That is where the air is filtered then supplied to the person. You need to verify that the filter is in good condition. With time it will block up and need to be changed. You need a system of identifying when that has occurred.

    3. Put in extraction so it is not required.- need to validate this.

    4. Eliminate so that is it not required.
  • Andrew
    Point One is a bit dicey and may not be enforceable, or the employer may face accusations of discrimination by having such a clause.

    Employers need to ensure they make "reasonable accommodations" for hairy chinned people if that hair is due to religious grounds (or hirsute women).

    (Also a dumb clause in times of skills shortages - I'd loose half my workforce if I had such a clause)
  • Stuart Keer-Keer
    Understandable as far as religious/ cultural reasons. Then goto step two. The cost of this is a lot higher than a negative pressure mask. As for how enforceable, if it is in an employment contract, and there is a good reason for it. (health). Hard to understand why it would not be enforceable.

    I am no lawyer.

    As to legal then the health and safety act requires an PCBU to take all steps to eliminate or reduce to the lowest practicable risks to health. It also requires an PCBU to provide safety equipment that fits. So if a person was not clean shaven and you gave them a mask to reduce a risk to health.....are you complying with the law? Another question for the lawyers.
  • Andrew
    At the risk of going down a rabbit hole we shouldn't lose sight of the "reasonably practicable" requirement. (Eg "to eliminate risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable"
  • Stuart Keer-Keer
    Each PCBU needs to make that decision themselves and make it such that it is defend able.
  • matt Chapman
    keep your lungs safe and others, I say, take some personal responsibility for youre self and others. if physical features impend the functionality of safety equipment then do something about it if possible, who wants to retire with stuffed lungs. I need glasses when working, they are catered for with well thought out solutions, so why not a beard.
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