Can I Wear A Beard With My Respirator?

This is becoming a more common question in the workplace, likely due to the fact that more and more people are having to wear respirators at work and the fact that beards are maybe more common of late than ever in the history of OSHA.

A number of people have asked whether there are exceptions to the requirement that facial hair does not interfere with the sealing surface of tight-fitting filtering facepiece respirators. Options presented by employees have included vaseline on the beard and/or sealing surface of the respirator, the use of “athletic bands” to essentially mimic facial skin and compress beard hair, and clips to hold the beard hair back (though nobody seems to claim they will mimic clean-shaven skin).

Unfortunately, there are no NIOSH and/or OSHA-approved facial hair styles besides those listed in the graphic below. The employer may need to engage in the interactive process with employees who for medical or religious reasons cannot shave, but the simple fact is NIOSH and OSHA do not approve facial hair while using respirators save and except for those styles shown.

Thanks to John Surma for contributing to this post.

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