What are the OSHA Facial Hair Regulations?
Judge Robertson said the bearded firefighters clearly could get a proper fit when oxygen was flowing into their masks and creating a pressure seal. But it is not clear whether they can get a seal without the oxygen flow because the District has refused to test them if they were not cleanshaven, he said.
“That rigidity is not acceptable,” the judge said.
In hazardous materials situations, firefighters remove the oxygen line from their masks and replace it with an air filter.
Mr. Spitzer said if the bearded firefighters fail the mask test, he might go back to the judge “to show there’s alternate apparatus that can provide the same protection.”
However, the judge said the department has provided “compelling testimony” that specialized masks or loose-fitting hoods that may allow a better fit for a bearded firefighter are in short supply and could be inconsistent with what is being used by other members of the department and other departments in the region.
All the fire departments in the region prohibit facial hair that interferes with the fit of a mask. The District has had such a rule since 1997, but it was not enforced until 2001. Five firefighters, including three still in the department, won a temporary injunction that year that allowed them to keep their beards and stay on active duty.
The issue resurfaced in May when Chief Adrian H. Thompson issued an order stating firefighters must be cleanshaven to undergo the yearly mask test. The men returned to court arguing that Chief Thompson was violating the preliminary injunction, a claim Judge Robertson rejected.