Beards are a rite of passage for many men across the world. For some, it’s a symbol of their manliness, for others, it’s rooted in religious beliefs. One contractor in the UK, however, is concerned with the safety risk the facial hair causes.
Mears, a UK construction company, effectively banned beards, with 3 exceptions, on their jobsites, because beards do not allow dust masks to create a tight enough fit to operate properly, Citing a Health and Safety Executive ruling from November of 2015, which resulted in a $5,600 fine (4421 British Pounds) for not provided a proper respirator to a bearded employee, the company has determined that beards and dust masks cannot coexist.
In a letter distributed to Mears employees, which you can read in the tweet below, the company laid out 3 exceptions to the “no beard” policy: if the beard cannot be shaved for medical reasons, if a dust mask cannot be worn for medical reasons, and for religious reasons.
Unite the Union, Britain and Irelands biggest union, had some strong words in opposition of the beard ban, calling it “penny pinching stupidity.” They also believe it will lead to anger and resentment among workers.
Mears responded to Unite a day later with a blog post on their website, stating, “one has to question the real motives of Unite which has chosen not to take the safety of its members seriously in order to make a cheap point.” Ultimately, they say, the responsibility to keep workers safe falls on them, which is true in America, as well, and so the decision had to be made in order to do so.
This story highlights the fact that companies can be put in some pretty tough situations sometimes, having to choose between the comfort of their employees and risking possible litigation and governmental fines. There are plenty of private companies outside the construction industry that don’t allow facial hair on their employees, not even for safety reasons. With the medical and religious exemptions included, I’m not sure that the company can really be blamed for any wrongdoing at this point.
There aren’t really any great options currently for bearded workers to protect themselves from airborne contaminates, but one option is a full hood. For American companies gearing up to comply with the new OSHA silica dust rule, lung protection will be extra important.
Tell us what you think…is banning beards on the job site going too far?
Full story: Construction firm Mears bans workers from having beards | The Guardian