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NIOSH to workers: Avoid a hairy situation with your respirator during ‘Movember’

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Source: NIOSH

Washington – Are you one of the thousands of men who grow facial hair – and awareness for men’s cancer – in November? If you are, and you wear a respirator at work, NIOSH has guidance for you.

The agency is urging workers eager to participate in Movember to think about safety first and ensure that your hirsute attempt to help a charity doesn’t interfere with properly fitting equipment. Facial hair along a respirator’s sealing area can compromise the shield’s effectiveness against harmful vapors, gases and particles.

“Some studies have shown that even a day or two of stubble can begin to reduce protection,” NIOSH states in an entry posted Nov. 2 on its Science Blog. “Research tells us that the presence of facial hair under the sealing surface causes 20 to 1,000 times more leakage compared to clean-shaven individuals.”

The blog highlights some creative facial hair style options in a handy chart. NIOSH recommends, as another alternative, consulting with a respiratory protection program manager about potential choices for respirators.

“In some work environments, a loose-fitting respirator, such as a powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR), is an option,” the agency states.

NIOSH urges all employees – mustachioed or not – to undergo a user seal check every time a respirator is worn. That can be a positive seal check, during which the wearer breathes out gently, or a negative seal check, during which the user breathes in sharply.

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