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Face Fit Testing & Beards
This is often a prickly issue, unfortunately having stubble or a beard along the mask sealing area will prevent an airtight seal.
The HSE will take enforcement action if they find masks being worn by those with facial hair. Thankfully there are loose-fitting solutions available!
Face fit testing and beards:
“Do I need to shave for a face fit test” is a question we hear routinely, both from employees and employers alike. Let’s dive into this hairy subject and give a more refined explanation of the requirements.
Starting with acceptable facial hair, most moustaches do not cause issues; neither do sideburns in the majority of cases.
Once we enter the realm of the ‘Goatee’ life can get more difficult, though a competent tester will work with the person in question; there is often a compromise to be found with a little tidy up here and there along with a slightly larger mask to get skin contact under the chin.
The legal position regarding facial hair along the respirator sealing surface is clear; “the wearer should have shaved within 8-hours of the start of their shift”.
So, we only need to clean-shaven in the area the mask seals, this opens up the possibility for some fairly unique growth trends to enter the market. Unfortunately, we’re not sure it’s a style that will catch on with beard lovers (pogonotrophists).
The fundamental issue here is that air is just too small; because of this annoying fact, if we want to achieve an ‘airtight’ seal between the mask and the face of the wearer, we cannot entertain anything being ‘in-between’ these two surfaces that will cause leakage.
Use this handy guide to see what style of facial hair may be acceptable for a face fit test:
Thankfully there is a solution for those with beards (there has to be as not everyone can shave) in the form of a loose fitting air-fed hood or helmet.
These can be either fed from a fixed air-supply ideal for paint sprayers/welders or can be in the form of a self-contained unit suitable for those in construction or other ‘mobile’ trades.
They don’t require face fit testing but as with all RPE, the user needs to be taught how to use it and maintain it.
A final note to add to this is that it is all well and good to be clean shaven for the face fit test itself. However, it is then down to the employer to implement an effective RPE policy in the workplace to manage this aspect long-term.
Any employer who fails to do this will be found in breach by HSE inspectors.
An air-fed hood that does not require face fit testing and works with facial hair. A TH2 classification gives the same Assigned Protection Factor as a P3 half-mask.
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