The importance of being clean shaven


FACT – If a worker is not clean shaven they will not be protected when wearing a tight-fitting respirator mask.

This is a very clear message that we have been delivering with all of our training yet we are constantly finding that this message is often being ignored. As tight-fitting RPE will only provide effective protection if the wearer is clean shaven, staff also need be clean shaven when fit tested.

As the biggest supplier of RPE to the NHS we face many day challenges and questions from our customers. Recently a customer complained that they were getting a very low fit test pass rate which did surprise us as the FFP3 Easimask has one of the highest pass rates of over 95%. On investigation we found that this particular Trust, despite our advice was fit testing people with facial hair as they could not think of another solution. In another trust staff were presenting for fit testing clean shaven but then wearing their masks with stubble and beards ongoing and had no idea that they were putting themselves at risk.

The effect of wearer stubble on the protection given by Filtering Facepieces Class 3 (FFP3) and Half Masks

Under no circumstances should you conduct a fit test on anyone who is not clean shaven.  If they pass the fit test it could lead the individual to believe that the respirator mask is actually going to give them protection and it won’t.  It is also important to spread the word that being clean shaven on a daily basis is the only way to ensure that the mask is providing the wearer with an adequate seal and doing the job its intended for.  A fit test is a method of checking that a tight-fitting facepiece matches the wearer’s facial features and seals adequately to their face. It will also help to identify unsuitable facepieces that should not be used.

People come in different shapes and sizes, so facial differences will mean that one type of RPE is unlikely to fit all. The differences are even more significant between men, women, and people of different ethnicity.

There are however a number of solutions for people with facial hair or due to the size and shape of their face, getting an adequate seal is not possible.


Powered Air Purifying Respirators with loose-fitting facepieces rely on enough clean air being provided to the wearer to prevent contaminant leaking in.  These respirators do not require a fit test because no seal is required so are perfect for any staff with facial hair or who for whatever reason have not been fit tested or cannot achieve an adequate seal.

Our range of powered air units are available with a variety of headtops and filters so are a very versatile in the level of protection that they can provide.  They are also ideal for instances where total head to foot coverage is required or when staff are coming into contact with chemical or gases as we have a wide range of filters available. For more information on powered air respirators click here.