It’s an interesting topic, but what are the EU & UK rules for Beards and Dust Masks or Respirators for Beards? Whilst not a simple, two second answer, read on and you will be a foundation of knowledge in no time.
Protective Masks and Facial Hair in the UK
The compatibility of beards and dust masks is a question we get asked more often than anything else. And putting it bluntly, facial hair and tight fitting respirator masks just don’t mix. The simple fact is that no dust mask can work effectively unless it forms a seal against the skin. Facial hair (beards) can create gaps between the respirator and the skin, thus breaking the seal and leaving you unprotected from hazardous materials and breaking every health and safety law in the book.
The Science – HSL Face-Fit Testing Experiment
In 2015, the Health & Safety Laboratory conducted a study on the effect that facial hair growth had on the face-fit testing of dust masks and respirators. A number of subjects were asked not to shave for a seven day period, during which they were tested on a number of different masks each day. The results showed that protection was significantly reduced when stubble was present, generally worsening the longer the facial hair grew.
As a result, every employer in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that their employees working in dusty or potentially hazardous environments are suitably protected. In recent years, many employers have been prosecuted for failing to do so. Whilst this means, wherever possible, stubble and beards should be strongly discouraged in your workplace, you can’t ban people from having a beard, but don’t worry – there are other (and perfectly legal options).
Best Respirators & Dust Masks for Beards
There will be some occasions where an individual won’t be able wear a tight fitting mask – such as a skin disease or beards for religious reasons. But you will need to find alternatives. A large, full hood over the head is one option, but this brings its own risks with loss of peripheral vision and affected hearing just two of them.
The most uses the following offer the best in value along with the best in protection of respirators for beards. Personal powered respirators often feature loose fitting hoods, helmets and visors. These blow clean air across the face under positive pressure, providing the wearer with enough clean air to prevent the contaminant leaking in. While this type of equipment does not need to be face-fit tested, they do still need to be worn closely to the face.
For particle hazards we would advice something like the Purelite Xstream powered respirator with TH2 particle filters or the 3M Versaflo TR-315 powered air starter kit (helmet supplied separately) – with the Purelite giving you change from £300. For gas hazards we advise the use of the 3M Jupiter powered air respirator, the kit comes complete with A2P organic particulate filter with more specialised filters available on request. Again on the 3M powered respirators, the helmet is supplied separately.
The Employer Is Responsible
Ultimately, however, there is no getting away from the fact that facial hair does compromise an employee’s safety when wearing dust masks. It is therefore the employer’s responsibility to ensure that their workers’ safety is at the top of the priority list and a wrong fitting mask is just not acceptable.
To discuss face-fit testing or powered respirators in more detail, please email [email protected] or call our UK technical support team on 01842 765634.