Apparently, a verbal war has launched between trade union Unite and building firm Mears in response to the banning of beards on their construction sites.

Of course, this ban isn’t without reason and Mears claim that the decision was made for health and safety purposes. Distributing a letter around its staff, Mears made it clear what types of facial hair would be acceptable on site. The letter stated: “operatives who work in a potentially dusty environment – all of ours – must come to work clean shaven to be able to wear appropriate dust masks effectively.”

Then, the letter continues to describe some beards, such as goatees, are acceptable, as long as they don’t “hinder the correct fitting of said dust masks.”

Alongside this, exceptions have also been made in regards to those who have beards for religious or medical reasons. However, this reasoning can’t be used lightly though as the building firm will also require written confirmation from an individual’s place of worship or a note from their doctor.

This decision has not sat well with trade union Unite though who have claimed that the actions of Mears are, “hair-raising.”

The continued: “this is a highly delicate issue, which has huge cultural, religious and personal issues and where sensitivity should be the watchword.”

“This is clearly a case of Mears going for the cheapest option and amounts to “penny-pinching stupidity”. Other forms of masks are available and these should be offered to existing workers.”

“Unite will always put the safety of our members first and creating huge resentment and anger among your workforce is never the way forward.”

“Mears needs to withdraw this decree and enter into a proper consultation with Unite and the workforce.”

Mear’s Group Health and Safety Director responded though stating: “we are pretty surprised that Unite, who claim to have the safety of workers at heart, have taken this disappointing stance.”

“Every employer in the UK has a legal responsibility to ensure that employees working in dusty or otherwise potentially hazardous environments are properly protected and in recent years employers have been prosecuted for failing to fulfil this duty.”

“The simple fact is that no dust mask can work effectively unless it forms a seal against the skin.”

“That is not possible with a beard or even heavy stubble.”

“If the Health and Safety Executive did a spot site visit and found workers wearing dust masks that were not sealed against the face then we would be liable to prosecution.”

“The alternative to a dust mask is a full hood over the head, which brings its own risks.”

“For example, many of our operatives do not like wearing a full hood and it can affect hearing and line of sight. It can also be uncomfortable to wear and can raise concerns with our clients who do not like to see workers in such hoods because of how it looks to customers.”

“It is vital to note, however, that if a risk assessment shows that the hood is a better option for a job or a worker insisted on having one, then, if assessed to be suitable, we will supply that hood so Unite’s reference to cost saving is absolute nonsense.”

And, with health and safety fines set to double, ill-fitting safety masks could result in expensive fines for construction companies. Read all about these doubling fines here. But what do you think? Should beards be banned on site? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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