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March 06, 2009



NOVANGLUS,osha does not state NO FACIAL HAIR 1910-134 states :(a) the employer shall not permit respirators with tight- fitting facepieces to be worn by employees who have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece or interferes with the valve function.In letters of interpretation of the standard from OSHA dated 1984,85,96 and 2003 OSHA has repeatly stated that it does not ban facial hair per se, if the facial hair is neatly trimmed and does not interfere with the sealing surface or valve function,and the wearer consistantly passes a fit test the facial hair poses no hazard to the wearer


What my brothers fail to recognize or admit is that the firefighter mentioned in this case has consistently proven that he can achieve a sustainable seal. So what is the problem??? As long as he is tested same as others or even twice or thrice as often as everyone that should ensure safety. What does a quantitative test measure? Is it accurate? Doesn't the fact of it's being done in NEGATIVE pressure mode with the user doing various motions designed to stretch the face in the various ways that would occur under stress mean anything when the one being tested passes with high marks??? Occasional leaks can happen to anyone. I know MANY firefighters who regularly have leakage and they have faces like cue balls. I also know a firefighter who has a very limited amount of facial hair on his chin who NEVER breaks a seal during ACTIVE training but is not allowed into the Hot zone during active calls because of OH&S rules. yes we need standards but we also need a mechanisms in place for those individuals who have the facial structure that allows a seal and can prove it.


Is this just a "selective" religeous card being used by the plaintif(s). Do they observe the Sabbath and all other reliegious holidays, laws, customs and traditions, or just what they feel benefits their agenda personally?

Mike Branum (Firefighter, Paramedic, Flight Nurse)

Unfortunately, it is not just "their funeral." Firefighters with leaking facial seals use up their compressed air more rapidly due to the very nature of positive pressure breathing apparatus that you mentioned. Since firefighters work in crews, if one runs low on air and has to leave, the entire crew must exit. This decreases the amount of time that a crew can remain in a structure engaged in life-saving efforts. A firefighter who is inefficiently using his air (apologies to any bearded female firefighters) and requires rescue places fellow firefighters in peril unnecessarily. Only time will tell how significant an impact this legal conundrum will have on the fire service in DC and across the country.


Maybe OSHA should have completed a study prior to issuing their blanket recommendation. It is some what suspect to believe that facial hair would present any safety issues given that SCBA's utilize positive pressure. This means that atmospheric pressure is greater inside of the mask than the atmosphere surrounding the mask thus forcing air out under pressure even if there is a crack in the seal. A defect in the ability of the system to provide positive pressure would result in injury whether or not facial hair is present or not.

If it is a grooming policy then call it that and adopt a minimal facial hair policy that can be agreed upon by all parties.


It doesn't matter what the court said, OSHA regulations state "no facial hair". But honestly, if these firefighters are that stupid to want to keep beards and not have their SCBA masks fit properly, hey - it's their funeral.

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