No Beards or Facial Hair When Wearing Respirators-February 2019

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety

February 2019

IN THIS ISSUE: No Beards or Facial Hair When Wearing Respirators.

One of the recurring concerns of safety professionals and supervisors is getting workers to shave when required to wear a tight fitting respirator. The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) recently re-stated its position on facial hair when wearing a respirator.  It supersedes its October 2, 2006 “Letter to all Manufacturers” titled NIOSH Policy for Respirator Sealing Surfaces and Facial Hair. NIOSH is the government organization that approves and rates respiratory protection.   Under 1910.134 paragraph (g)(1)(i), OSHA has banned facial hair that interferes with the fit of the respirator

According to NIOSH, “Facial hair that lies along the sealing area of the respirator, such as beards, sideburns, moustaches, or even more than one day or 24 hours of growth of stubble, should not be permitted on employees who an employee who is required to wear respirators that rely on tight facepiece fit. “ This notice applies to N95 particulate respirators (dust masks) as well as half and full-face elastomer respirators.

Facial hair is much thicker than material used in a respirator so it cannot adequately block particles that pass between the respirator seal and the skin. Also it will not trap gases and vapors like the carbon bed in a respirator cartridge.  Therefore, the vast majority of particles, gases, and vapors follow the air stream right through the facial hair and into respiratory tract of the wearer.

Here are some tips on securing compliance with the facial hair requirement:

  • Make employees responsible for their safety. Inform them on what chemicals and contaminants at their job may harm them and how they can best control their exposure by using existing engineering controls as well as respiratory protection.
  • Thoroughly train employees in the use of respiratory protection and present facility requirements, especially the company requirement on facial hair.
  • Provide fit testing and a selection of respirators for fitting.
  • Address employee concerns regarding fit, irritation, shaving, etc.
  • Make available single use razors.
  • Enforce and monitor respirator requirements.

The NIOSH rule of no beards, moustaches, and other facial hair for employees wearing respirators is a common complaint. By explaining its purpose, educating employees, and being firm on company policy.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

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