At 3M Canada, we are fully committed to following CSA Standard Z94.4 regarding workers with facial hair and respirator fit testing. We explore exactly what this standard means for workers and the use of respirators with workers who have facial hair.
CSA Z94.4 states that tight fitting respirators are not permitted to be worn by employees who have facial hair that comes between the sealing surface of the facepiece and the face or that interferes with the valve function. Any condition that interferes with the face-to-respirator faceseal or valve function is also addressed in this standard.
CSA’s intent is stated in Z94.4 and implies that the worker needs to be clean shaven in the face seal area. It also implies that the worker needs to have been clean-shaven in the faceseal area within the last 24 hours prior to the fit test.
Other listed conditions that can interfere with the faceseal includes:
- facial scars;
- headgear that projects under the facepiece seal; or
- anything else that interferes with the seal between the respirator and the face
CSA Standard Z94.4 prohibits fit testing employees if there is any hair growth between the skin and facepiece sealing surface, such as stubble beard growth, beard, moustache, or sideburns which cross the respirator sealing surface.
3M is fully aligned with CSA’s facial hair requirement that nothing is permitted in the sealing area of a tight-fitting respirator or allowed to interfere with respirator valve function – and that respirator fit testing should not be conducted on people for whom this is the case. Furthermore, a medical evaluation to determine a worker’s ability to use a respirator must be completed before being fit tested.
Therefore, 3M does not support conducting qualitative or quantitative fit tests on people wearing negative-pressure respirators (half and full facepiece air-purifying respirators) or positive-pressure tight-fitting respirators with any facial hair that extends under the respirator seal or interferes with valve function.
Our use limitation instructions provide that all tight-fitting respirators should not be used with “beards or other facial hair or other conditions that prevent a good seal between the face and the sealing surface of the respirator.”
Frequently asked questions
Q: Are there any acceptable facial hairstyles?
A: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published a very clear and creative poster which helps workers determine which facial hairstyles are acceptable to use with filtering facepiece respirators. CSA Z94.4 Annex P also includes several illustrations of acceptable facial hair for tight fitting respirators. Our infographic on whether welders can wear facial hair is another informative resource for those looking for further clarification.
Q: Is it true that facial hair under the seal can filter the air that passes between the faceseal and the skin?
A: NIOSH does a great job of answering this question on their blog post “To Beard or not to Beard? That’s a good Question!” which states, “Facial hair is not dense enough and the individual hairs are too large to capture particles like an air filter does; nor will a beard trap gases and vapors like the carbon bed in a respirator cartridge.”
Q: I can pass a fit test with facial hair. Why do I have to shave it?
A: CSA does not permit fit testing for any individual where there is facial hair or any obstruction between the face and respirator edge.
Q: My employees are not complying with our facial hair policy. Any suggestions?
A: There’s no solution that works for every organization, so respirator program administrators need to devise an approach that works for their unique organization. Some organizations require their workers to be clean-shaven as a condition of their employment if they are assigned to wear tight-fitting respirators. Others permit facial hair on the days when employees aren’t required to wear their tight-fitting respirators, with the agreement that they will shave, even on the spot if need be, if the respirator needs to be worn. Others accommodate workers who don’t want to shave or can’t shave because of religious beliefs by allowing the use of a (powered air purifying respirator) PAPR with loose-fitting headgear, instead of a tight-fitting respirator.
For more information, consider these resources:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NIOSH Science Blog (2017). "To Beard or not to Beard? That’s a good Question!",https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2017/11/02/noshave/
- CDC/NIOSH Facial Hairstyles and Filtering Facepiece Respirators Infographic. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/pdfs/ FacialHairWmask11282017-508.pdf or Spanish version: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npptl/pdfs/FacialHairWmask11282017sp-P.pdf
- CDC/NIOSH Filtering Out Confusion: Frequently Asked Questions About Respiratory Protection, Fit Testing. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2018-129/pdfs/2018-129.pdf?id=10.26616/NIOSHPUB2018129
- CSA Z94.4-18, Selection, use and care of respirators.
Respirators help reduce exposures to certain airborne contaminants. Before use, the wearer must read and understand the User Instructions provided as a part of the product packaging. Follow all local regulations. A written respiratory protection program must be implemented meeting all the requirements of CSA Z94.4, including training, fit testing and medical evaluation. CSA standard Z94.4 requirements must be met and/or requirements of the applicable jurisdiction, as appropriate. Misuse may result in sickness or death. For correct use, consult supervisor and the User Instructions, or call 3M Canada Technical Service at 1-800-267-4414.
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