Face Fit Masks and Beards

Face Fit Masks and Beards

Face Fit Testing and beards? Whether they’re worn for religious reasons, a medical condition or to keep up with the latest style, many people choose to grow beards. However, this type of facial hair can pose a problem for those working in jobs that require the use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Alongside moustaches and sideburns, beards can interfere with the initial testing process as well as the day-to-day protection of close or tight-fitting RPE.

face fit masks beards

How much facial hair is acceptable?

The general consensus regarding face fit testing and beards is the less hair, the better. In fact, HSE conducted a study that showed just how much a beard could affect the seal quality.

Entitled The effect of wearer stubble on the protection given by Filtering Facepieces Class 3 (FFP3) and Half Masks, the study assessed the impact of stubble on the mask’s seal quality. It measured its affects from the wearer from being clean-shaven to having seven days of growth:

“…the effect on protection was quite specific to the mask/wearer combination. Protection could be significantly reduced where stubble was present, beginning within 24 hours from shaving, and generally worsening as facial hair grew.”

In order to achieve the best levels of protection, we strongly advise that employees are clean shaven in the area of the seal before they begin their shift or take a face fit test. This requires them to have shaved within 8 hours of their shift starting.

What are the issues surrounding face fit testing and beards?

The solution to this problem will largely depend on the person’s reason for growing the beard. If they don’t have a particular attachment to it and would prefer to wear a close-fitting mask, then they could shave this off as well as any additional facial hair that may affect the seal. This includes sideburns and longer moustaches. As an employer, you are within your rights to make this a requirement.

However, some people choose to grow a beard for religious reasons. For example, many Sikhs will not shave or cut their hair out of respect for God’s creation. If the person chooses not to grow a beard for reasons such as this, then an alternative solution will need to be found. This is also the case if the person has a beard for medical reasons. Skin irritation can be an issue for some, and it can cause a considerable amount of discomfort to shave on a daily basis.

In these cases, you will be required to provide a different form of respiratory protective equipment. Loose-fitting RPE such as visors, helmets and hoods can all be used as alternatives to keep the employee safe at work.

If you’re still unsure, the team at Training and Testing Services have a great deal of expertise in both the legal and practical areas of respiratory protective equipment. Contact us to learn more, or to book your face fit test with us today.

2 Comments
  • Paul Morris
    Posted at 22:08h, 08 February Reply

    Hi – i run a small plumbing business – only myself and one other direct employee. i have been face mask fitted however my employee has a beard and is not willing to shave (no medical or religious reasons). Can you confirm the legal position for employers in this situation. I am aware other masks/hoods are available at considerable cost – but wish to confirm if an employer is legally obliged to provide the alternative just because the employee chooses not to shave. If the employee chooses not to shave and the employer refuses to pay for the higher cost mask/hood what would be next step? can you dismiss someone for not shaving? Hopefully you can clarify the situation.

    • Jo Wood
      Posted at 12:00h, 09 February Reply

      Hi Paul, we have a lot of information on our frequently asked page including links to all the relevant legislation and HSE documents, the link is here

      One question on this page is:
      Can I make my staff shave?
      No, however if they need to wear a tight fitting mask as part of their work then they need to be clean shaven. If they choose not to shave then you cannot put them in to a hazardous environment and therefore they won’t be able to do their job. It is down to management to deal with this issue, but if they are not clean shaven then they cannot wear a tight fitting mask.

      Sadly, we cannot advise whether you can sack someone as this is down to HR and employment law. I hope this information is of help. In the meantime if you would like to look at purchasing a powered hood the link to our shop is here.

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