In its recent newsletter article titled: “Ensure respirators fit properly: that includes bearded hipsters!”, Workplace Health and Safety Queensland warned about the dangers all types of facial hair, even stubble, may pose to workers who wear respirators.
The regulator advised that skin must be cleanly shaven to provide an adequate seal around the wearer’s face.
Under the Work Health and Safety Act, workers are required to take reasonable care of their own safety, comply with any reasonable instruction and cooperate with any reasonable health and safety policy or procedure of their employer.
The regulator says it will take enforcement action against employers that have provided tight-fitting respirators to their workers without carrying out appropriate fit testing, or where their worker’s facial hair is likely to prevent the respirator from sealing properly.
If the respirator isn’t properly sealed against the face, this can allow contaminated air to leak in and thus won’t provide sufficient protection to the wearer.
Male and female workers
When a wearer’s facial characteristics change enough to potentially affect the seal, such as a significant weight loss or gain, new fit testing should be carried out.
Fit testing should also repeated regularly as part of a workplace risk assessment, at least every two years.
WorkSafe Queensland also noted that with respirators, there is no ‘one size fits all’ and that employers should keep written records of the fit tests completed for each worker.