Safety authorities estimate that five million workers nationwide need to wear respirators to protect them from harm while they perform their daily duties. If you work in an industry in California that exposes you to small pieces of particulate matter that you can easily inhale or hazardous gases, vapors and fumes, you are one of those workers. Proper personal protective equipment can prevent severe long-term health problems or even death.
If you have facial hair, you might unknowingly be at risk of health damage even if you wear a respiratory device. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, facial hair can prevent a proper fit, which is crucial for respiratory devices.
What are the rules?
There are no rules against growing facial hair. However, you might be surprised to learn that, according to safety and health professionals, the growth of stubble presents more significant problems than neatly groomed facia hair.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health confirmed this. It stated that a one- or two-day-old stubble could significantly interfere with the proper seal required for adequate respiratory protection. If your employer allows you to grow your facial hair, it would be in your best interest to ensure you shave regularly or keep your beard well-groomed.
Understand the equipment
Respiratory equipment comes in various types, some of which are more suited for workers with facial hair. Understanding the following different types of respirators can help you to decide whether your personal protective equipment will serve its purpose and keep your safe:
- If the respiratory risks you encounter require a protective system that forms a perfect seal around your face, you might have to choose between your facial hair and your health.
- Your employer might provide you with a respirator that fully envelops your head and requires no seal around your face. These devices provide purified air and are more suitable for workers with beards.
- Keep in mind that a respirator that formed a perfect seal around your face before you decided to grow facial hair would no longer be effective in protecting you from airborne hazards.
- If you start a new job in which you will wear a respirator, make sure it is a proper fit.
Who will have your back?
While you put your health on the line to earn an income, how will you cope with the consequences of an occupational illness? You might find comfort in knowing that the California workers’ compensation program will provide financial assistance if you should suffer a work-related respiratory illness — regardless of whether you have facial hair. An experienced workers’ comp attorney can help you to navigate the benefits claims process to obtain compensation to cover your medical expenses and lost wages.