Facial hair is just a part of life, but it shouldn’t be a safety hazard. Employers need to make sure their workers have access to reliable OSHA-approved respirators for beards when working in hazardous environments. Facial hair often gets in the way of the seal that connects the respirator to the worker’s face, leaving room for airborne pollutants and hazardous gases.
How Should a Respirator Fit with Facial Hair?
There are lots of different kinds of facial hair. According to OSHA, employees with neatly trimmed mustaches, goatees, and sideburns may not have to worry about their facial hair as long as it doesn’t interfere with the seal of the respirator. The hair shouldn’t come in contact with the seal or hazardous gases may slip through the cracks.
This may be nearly impossible if the person has a large beard or hair all over their face. In this case, OSHA recommends using a respirator that doesn’t require a face seal, including loose-fitting powered air-purifying respirators and hooded powered air-purifying respirators, such as these respiratory helmets. These respirators fit over the person’s entire head, so it doesn’t matter how much hair they have on their face. It is the only option for workers with large beards.
Conduct a Fit Test
Regardless of how much hair they have on their face, everyone should complete a respirator fit test with the equipment on to make sure it fits properly. This means exposing the person to a test gas. If they can smell or taste the gas while wearing the respirator, it’s not working properly.
For teams with lots of different workers, it’s best to keep several options on hand in case someone shows up with a face full of fuzz. Facial hair tends to grow fast. One person may be good to go one day, only to have the respirator not fit the next time they come in for work. Employers should do their best to keep multiple sizes and styles onsite to keep their workers safe.
Hoods and loose-fitting respirators are the best choices for workers with lots of facial hair. We sell a variety of OSHA-approved respirators for beards at PK Safety. Contact us today to learn more about choosing the right safety supply and equipment for your team.