Shave or Save? The Truth About Firefighters and Facial Hair

Many Individuals Feel That Having Facial Hair Is More Attractive Than Always Having A Clean-Shaven Appearance.

However, Some Potential Candidates For The Fire Service Could Be Concerned About Whether Or Not They Are Permitted To Have Facial Hair Or A Fully Developed Beard.

Regrettably, As A General Rule, Firefighters Are Not Permitted To Grow Facial Hair, Including Beards.

It Is Expected Of You To Always Have A Clean Shaven Appearance If You Are A Member Of The Fire Service, And This Is Especially True While You Are On Duty. This Is Due To A Number Of Different Factors.

Nevertheless, Throughout The Course Of History There Have Been A Few Notable Deviations From The Norm And Even A Few Legal Disputes.

There Are Many Distinct Looks And Lengths Available For Beards. In General, The Vast Majority Of Professions Will Permit You To Have A Beard On The Condition That It Is Kept Clean And Well-Groomed At All Times.

However, There Are Several Professions That Have More Stringent Guidelines Regarding The Permissibility Of Sporting Facial Hair Or Not.

People Who Are Enthusiastic About Entering The Fireman Profession Might Be Concerned About Whether Or Not They Will Be Required To Shave Daily. Therefore, What Are The Specific Regulations Regarding The Growth Of Beards For Firefighters?

Today, We Are Going To Investigate The Protocols That Are Followed By Fire Departments All Across The World. In Addition To This, We Are Going To Investigate The Rationale Behind These Policies, As Well As Examine Historical Instances In Which Men Have Struggled For The Freedom To Cultivate Facial Hair.

Beards Of Any Kind May Be Worn By Firemen, May They?

In Order To Provide A Response That Is More Comprehensive To This Topic, It Will Be Necessary For Us To Investigate The Many Distinct Regulations That Are Enforced By The Many Various Departments.

The Rules Will Typically Range From State To State, As Will The Attitudes Of The Various Departments In Each State’s Respective Municipal Government.

When On Duty, Most Fire Departments Require Its Firemen To Maintain A Clean-Shaven Appearance In Accordance With A Guideline That Is Considered To Be Extremely Severe.

It Is Quite Acceptable For You To Let A Beard Grow While You Are Off Duty, So There Is No Need For Concern About That. However, In Order To Enter The Station Without Being Stopped, You Will Need To Shave It Off.

A Number Of The Other Departments Have A Reputation For Being Somewhat Laxer With The Standards That They Enforce. Within Reason, These Departments Will Allow You To Have Shorter Beards As Long As They Are Neatly Groomed.

When It Comes To The Topic Of Facial Hair, There Are Some Fire Departments That Are Even More Lenient Than Others. This Information Could Come As A Surprise To You.

As Long As Their Firefighters Are Able To Perform Their Jobs In An Adequate Manner, They Do Not Have Any Strong Ideas On Whether Or Not Their Firefighters Grow Beards.

It Is Also Important To Keep In Mind That The Precise Job That Each Firefighter Plays Will Play A Role In Determining How These Rules Are Implemented.

Those Who Are Actively Involved In Putting Out Fires Or Responding To Significant Incidents Are The Ones Who Are Most Likely To Be Instructed To Keep Their Faces Shaved. 

However, Firemen Who Operate In The Community Or In Departments That Are Not On The Forefront Are More Likely To Get Away With A Little Bit Of Beard Growth Than Those Who Work On The Frontline.

Because They Won’t Have To Put Out As Many Fires As Those Who Are In Risk, Several Office Staff Are Also More Likely To Be Sporting Facial Hair Of Some Form. This Is Due To The Fact That They Won’t Be In Danger Themselves.

Why Is It That Firefighters Aren’t Permitted To Grow Beards?

If That’s The Case, Then Why Do Most Fire Departments Frown Upon Facial Hair? Everything Boils Down To Issues Of Health And Safety.

One Of The First Regulations That Is Taught In A Fire Academy Is To Always Have A Clean Shave. People Who Wear Masks Are Required To Have Their Facial Hair Completely Removed In Accordance With This Guideline.

In Accordance With The Same Policy, You Are Required To Inform Your Manager If, As A Result Of A Medical Condition, You Are Unable To Maintain A Routinely Clean-Shaven Appearance.

They Need To Be Ready To Assist You In Locating A Different Method Of Shaving That Is Suitable For Your Needs.

Therefore, If You Are Just Beginning Your Career In The Fire Service, You Won’t Be Able To Get Out Of The Obligation Of Shaving Off Your Beard.

This Policy Can Appear To Be A Bit On The Stringent Side. Especially If You Like To Cultivate A Beard Or Facial Hair Of Some Kind. On The Other Hand, This Measure Was Implemented For Your Own Protection. 

The Reason For This Is That Firefighters Are Required To Wear Scba Masks. You Will Be Shielded From Any Potentially Hazardous Chemicals Or Smoke That May Be Present In The Air After A Fire Has Been Put Out By This Measure.

The Mask Is Effective Because It Creates A Seal Around Your Face, Which Blocks Any Air From Entering The Space Between The Two. As A Result, You Won’t Have To Worry About Breathing In Any Toxic Vapors Because You’ll Have Access To A Pure Source Of Oxygen To Breathe Instead.

However, Having A Beard Can Make This Entire Procedure More Difficult. The Efficiency Of The Seal Created By The Scba Mask Can Be Hindered By Facial Hair That Grows In A Way That Prevents It From Fitting Properly.

If You Have A Beard, It Will Prevent The Mask From Fitting As Closely To Your Face As It Needs To In Order To Provide The Necessary Level Of Protection.

Regardless Of How Narrow This Crack Is, A Surprising Number Of Dust Particles Will Be Able To Pass Through It. You Won’t Believe How Many. After That, These Particles Will Be Inhaled, Which Might Cause Damage To A Firefighter’s Airways Because They Will Have Entered Them.

Any Soot Or Dust That Makes Its Way Into Beards Can Also Raise The Risk Of Developing Certain Malignancies In Addition To Other Unpleasant Respiratory Conditions.

In Point Of Fact, The Layers Of Material That End Up On Firefighters’ Gear Are The Only Cause Of The Relatively High Cancer Rates That Currently Exist Among Firemen.

The Most Significant Contributors To This Problem Are Things Like Asbestos, Plastic Particles, And Odors From Petroleum Products.

If These Harmful Particles And Gases Were Able To Linger In Your Beard, It Would Be Simply Too Simple To Inhale Them Into Your Lungs Once You Removed Your Scba Mask Because They Would Be So Close To Your Mouth And Nose.

Because Of This, Even If Your Fire Department Does Not Prohibit You From Keeping A Beard, You Will Need To Ensure That You Thoroughly Clean It After Each Event In Order To Keep Yourself Safe.

If You Are Too Lazy About Maintaining The Hygiene Of Your Beard, The Carcinogens And Hazardous Particles That Are There Will Not Only Affect You. They Can Contaminate The Station During The Day As Well As During Your Shift If They Are Allowed To Remain There. 

Therefore, In Order To Reduce The Risk Of Injury To Both The Individual And Their Fellow Firemen, It Is Customarily Forbidden For Firefighters To Maintain Their Beards While They Are On Duty.

Why Is It That Firefighters Are So Frustrated With This Policy?

Taking Into Consideration That Not All Fire Departments Adhere Strictly To This Guideline, It Has The Potential To Irritate Those Individuals Who Are Required To Work In Circumstances That Are More Stringent.

Keeping Your Face Smooth-Shaven Comes With A Host Of Obvious Advantages For Your Health.

On The Other Hand, It’s Only Natural That Some Firefighters Would Wish To Exercise Their Right To Cultivate Their Own Facial Hair.

If It Won’t Affect The Seal Of The Scba Masks, Some Fire Stations Will Allow Their Firefighters To Grow A Little Quantity Of Facial Hair. This Is Only The Case At Stations That Have Strict Grooming Policies.

This Is An Excellent Compromise For Individuals Who Do Not Like To Maintain A Perfectly Clean-Shaven Appearance At All Times.

But There’s Another Reason Why Some Firefighters Would Prefer To Preserve Their Beards: It Looks Tougher. Some Firefighters Choose Not To Shave Their Beards For Religious Reasons, In Addition To The Fact That Doing So Is Considered Unprofessional.

In This Particular Scenario, Requiring A Firefighter To Shave Off Their Beard Violates Their Constitutionally Protected Right To Practice Their Religion In Whichever Manner Best Suits Them.

It Is Important To Note That The Primary Reason For The Debate Over Whether Or Not Firemen Should Be Allowed To Grow Beards Is Mostly Due To Medical Concerns, And Not Because The Profession Has A Problem With Any Particular Religion.

As A Result Of This, Several Firefighters Throughout The Annals Of Firefighting History Have Even Taken Their Departments To Court In Order To Safeguard Their Ability To Follow Their Faith By Keeping A Beard. 

Between The Years 2001 And 2007, One Of The Most Noteworthy Instances Of This Occurred With The Fire Department In Washington, District Of Columbia. In 2001, Several Of The Muslim Firemen Brought The Department To Court Over The Department’s Grooming Policy. 

During The Year 2005, This Very Same Fire Department Made A Change To Its Policy In Order To Establish A Regulation That Prohibits Its Personnel From Growing Beards.

They Claimed, In Essence, The Same Thing That We Have Explained Above, Which Is That Beards Come In The Between Of The Mask And Your Face, Making It Impossible For The Mask To Properly Create A Seal.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act From 1993 Was The Basis For The Court’s Decision In Favor Of The Muslim Firefighters In 2007. This Decision Was Rendered In 2007.

The Court Was Of The Opinion That These Safety Allegations Were Supported By Insufficient Evidence, Which Resulted In The Fire Department’s Loss Of The Lawsuit.

However, In 2005, A Court In Philadelphia Found In Favor Of The Local Fire Department In A Similar Case Between Them And A Muslim Claimant. The Case Was Brought Against The Fire Department By The Claimant.

They Came To The Conclusion That The Muslim Firefighter Could Not, Under Any Circumstances, Keep His Beard While He Was On The Job.

Therefore, In Order For Him To Continue His Work As A Firefighter, He Would Have To Act In A Way That Is Contrary To His Religious Views.

It Should Come As No Surprise That The Council On American-Islamic Relations (Cair) Has Been Engaged In A Battle With The Occupational Safety And Health Administration (Osha) Over The Course Of Several Decades About This Matter.

The Council On American-Islamic Relations (Cair) Contends That No Muslim Should Be Coerced Into Acting Against Their Religious Beliefs For The Sake Of Their Own Personal Safety.

Back In 1998, The Occupational Safety And Health Administration (Osha) Did Say That There Were Other Alternatives For Respiratory Protection, Such As Helmets And Loose Hoods, In The Event That There Was A Circumstance In Which A Mask Could Not Be Worn.

If A Firefighter Did Have A Beard, Therefore, One Could Argue That These Precautions Are Already In Place.

In An Instance That Occurred More Recently In 2016, A Number Of Firefighters In Jacksonville, Florida, Were Demoted To Desk Duty Or Sent Home Because They Wore Facial Hair.

Because The Government Believed That These Beards Posed A Threat To Public Health And Safety, They Insisted That The Firefighters Must First Shave Them Off Before They Could Resume Their Regular Responsibilities. 

Because Of Their Susceptibility To Severe Razor Bumps, Approximately Thirty Firefighters Had Been Granted An Exemption From This Restriction Prior To This Development.

However, In Order To Obtain A Good Seal On Their Respirators, Firefighters In Florida Are Required To Have Their Facial Hair Shaved Clean Because Of The State’s Regulations. 

The Firefighters Who Had Razor Rashes On Their Faces Said That The Mask Was Actually Rubbing Against Them, Which Led To Other Problems Such As Bleeding Over The Masks.

This Not Only Makes The Masks Unsanitary, But It Also Makes It More Likely That The Razor Bumps Will Become Infected. This Problem Is Substantially More Severe For Firemen Of African Descent. Some People Are Concerned That Activities Such As These Demonstrate A Significantly Higher Level Of Inequality In The United States.

The Evolution Of Facial Hair Among Firefighters Throughout History

Those Of You With Sharp Eyes Will Have Observed That The Majority Of Our Conversation Around This Topic Has Focused On The Regulations Of Beard Hair.

It’s Possible That Learning That Fire Departments That Want Its Workers To Maintain A Perfectly Clean-Shaven Appearance Are Far Less Prevalent Will Come As A Surprise To You.

Because Of The Design Of The Scba Mask, Problems Caused By Mustaches And Sideburns Are Quite Uncommon.

Therefore, In Situations In Which Firefighters Are Not Permitted To Grow Beards, They Can Grow These Instead. It’s Interesting To Note That Some Firefighters Have A Custom Of Growing Mustaches. It Was Considered A Show Of Masculinity In The Difficult Career That Required It.

This Pattern Was Also Highlighted In An Article That Appeared In The New York Times In The Year 1986. It Was Estimated That Over Forty Percent Of Firefighters Sported Mustaches.

The Fact That Beards Are Not Permitted In Fire Departments As A Result Of The Introduction Of New Oxygen Masks Was Another Topic That Was Covered In The Article. 

These More Recent Oxygen Masks Did Not Allow Firefighters To Have The Same Types Of Mustaches That They Had In The Past. It Couldn’t Be Untidy Or Overly Long Because Doing One Of Those Things Would Prevent The Mask From Functioning Correctly.

The Mustache Of A Fireman Was Not Permitted To Extend Past The Upper Lip Or Beyond The Corners Of Their Mouths At That Time.

One More Viewpoint Contends That This Was The Case Because Of The Impression Of Their Professional Competence. It Was Requested Of Certain Firefighters To Cover Up Their Tattoos Because It Was Felt That They Gave Off A “Unprofessional” Appearance.

Many People Have Stated That A Person’s Ability To Perform Their Work Is Not Impacted By The Presence Of Tattoos On Their Body.

The Aforementioned Guideline Also Applies To Hair On The Face. Some People Are Of The Opinion That The Discrimination Against Persons Who Have Beards And Other Forms Of Facial Hair Has More To Do With The Fact That Society Does Not Want People To Appear In A Particular Manner.

In Conclusion

It Has Come To Our Attention That The Question Of Whether Or Not It Is Acceptable To Have A Beard In Order To Work For The Fire Department Does Not Have A Straightforward Response. Your Position Within The Fire Department Will Determine The Answer To This Question. 

Those Who Work On The Front Lines Will Be Required To Maintain A Clean Shaven Appearance For Their Own Safety; However, Those Who Work In Administrative Or Community Jobs May Be Able To Get Away With Sporting A Beard So Long As It Is Well Maintained. In Most Cases, It Will Be Varied Amongst The Various Departments. 

If You Are Set On Becoming A Fireman But Don’t Want To Shave Your Beard Or Mustache, It Is In Your Best Interest To Research The Policies Of The Various Fire Departments In Your Area.

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