Fit-testing and Facial Hair

Source: Jovani Carlo Gorospe - 123RF

Source: Aliaksandr Mazurkevich – 123RF

Facial hair is an expression of individuality, and sometimes, religious beliefs. Nonetheless, facial hair interferes with face mask seals. Both facial hair and long hair can come between the seal on a facepiece and allow contaminated air in.

Fortunately, fit tests are conducted prior to an employee’s placement at a job, and every year thereafter. This 15-20 minute test determines the effectiveness of the seal between the respirator facepiece and the face.

As an employee, you have the right to the best protection possible. If a certain respirator or face piece does not fit, per OSHA fit-testing procedures, your company should offer a selection so you can find one that fits. Once you have found the best fitting equipment for your face, you will use that same make, model, style, and size on the job.

Additionally, fit tests consistently prove that clean shaven faces create the best respirator face seal. The increase in protection is about 300 times greater for clean shaven employees compared to their counterparts.

Health and safety should be the primary concern for individuals who wear negative-pressure face masks and their employers. Any leakage into the face piece would allow exposure to hazardous chemicals, and should be prevented. Therefore, avoiding facial hair while wearing a respirator is more than a personal preference: it may help save your life.