Q Can I have a beard and do structural firefighting, and still meet the requirements of NFPA 1500?
- NFPA 1500; NFPA 1404, Fire Department Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus Program; and NFPA 1981, Open-Circuit SCBA for Fire Fighters, don't allow facial hair, which may keep a face piece from sealing properly.
- The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't allow for facial hair in 29CFR1910.134, either.
- NFPA 1500 doesn't allow firefighters with beards or facial hair to use SCBA whose facepiece is designed to seal with the face, or with hair that could interfere with the operation of the SCBA to use respiratory protection at emergency incidents or in hazardous or potentially hazardous atmospheres.
- These restrictions apply regardless of the fit test measurement that can be obtained under test conditions.
Recent Legal Ruling Example:
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office denies that a Muslim detention officer was discriminated against because of his beard, citing Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules that require a clean shave with face masks.
The office's response runs counter to what is claimed in the lawsuit filed today by Bosnian immigrant Sinan Fazlovic (with the help of the ACLU). The lawsuit states:
The primary occupational safety agency in the country ("OSHA"), opined in 1998 that persons with beards could meet the standards for wearing a secure SCBA or equivalent device and work under smoke and fire conditions.
We called the state OSHA office to get verification of this. But Bruce Hanna, a state industrial hygienist, had the opposite opinion: "You're not supposed to have any facial hair" when wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus mask, he said.
Here's the full statement about the ACLU lawsuit from MCSO:
This lawsuit erroneously accuses the Maricopa Sheriff's Office of religious discrimination.
The lawsuit fails to acknowledge our responsibility to comply with state-adopted federal OSHA regulations governing the type of facemasks authorized for use in jail emergency situations where life and health for officers and inmates are at risk.
This Sheriff's Office is committed to providing a safe environment for employees and inmates. We comply with Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health as it sets the standards for the safe use of this equipment as it pertains to facial hair and its potential to compromise the effectiveness of safety equipment.
Chief of Custody
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office
That may be true and I know guys that have it also. But in todays society, if something were to happen. Benefits could somehow be denied or blame placed on someone else for allowing it. The standards are meant for a reason. Unfortunately, they are not all thought out completely. This standard happens to be a safety issue and should be followed closesly. If you can prove, from a qualitative fit test, that your seal is good with your facial hair, you should be just fine.