Movember, the month formerly known as November, is when brave and selfless men around the world grow a moustache, and women step up to support them, all to raise awareness and funds for men’s health – specifically prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention.
However, did you know that a moustache might be putting your life at risk?
And no, we’re not talking about the latest Bond villain…
regardless of whether you think the tash is trendy or not…
THE BAD NEWS
…If you use Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) in the workplace, facial hair around the seal area (where the respirator presses against your face) can cause leaks. Any leaks, even the size of a pin prick can cause hazardous particles in the environment to enter your lungs.
Depending on what you’re using RPE to protect you from, this contaminated air entering your lungs could cause a range of issues – from short-term issues such as dizziness, to long term effects such as COPD or lung cancer.
As explained by the Health and Safety Executive, for a tight-fitting respirator to work effectively, the wearer must be clean shaven under the area of the seal.
In most cases, this means the wearer must clean shave shortly before each shift.
THE GOOD NEWS
The good news however, is that not all facial hair is incompatible with RPE, and not all RPE is incompatible with facial hair!
Here’s a brief breakdown for those of you growing a moustache this November:
Avoiding the seal
Tight-fitting respirators come in lots of different shapes and sizes (as do people and moustaches!). Depending on where your respirator sits on your face, and how your moustache is growing, you may be able to trim it to avoid interfering with the seal. Please note, this will vary from person-to-person, and respirator-to-respirator. We recommend speaking to your Health & Safety Manager before doing this in case it is in breach of their policy or would not be suitable in your situation.
Some RPE – such as a Powered Air Kit don’t rely on a tight seal around the face to work.
These devices suck air in the environment through a filter using a motorised fan and blow the filtered air through a hose into a head top worn by the user. Due to the constant positive pressure supplied by the air, the wearer only ever breathes in filtered air, despite the seal around the head top often being loose.
Really large beards may still interfere with the system, so please consult with your Health & Safety Manager just to be sure.
While disappointing, it can’t be stressed enough that you need to look after your lungs. The likes of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Asbestosis not only can lead to an early grave but are severely debilitating diseases.
If you do have to shave though, not all is lost! You can still join in by raising money for a friend, or donating on Movember’s website: https://uk.movember.com/
For all matters respirator, fit testing or health & safety related, get in touch with our RPE team today