RPE - Beards and religious exemptions HR liability Options
ADALE
#1 Posted : Monday, February 10, 2014 10:42:04 AM
Rank: Forum user
Groups: Construction , Humber, IOSH member

Hi, does anyone know of any references of either case law or certain statutes regarding requiring proof of religious beliefs etc. when it comes to H&S law, RPE and beards. My problem is some Eastern European workers are claiming religious grounds on not complying with RPE requirements. I feel this is an easy option for discrimination claims of not handled correctly.

I do not want to digress onto loose fitting RPE, as this is more a HR issue, and other options are currently being looked at. Any assistance is gratefully received.
mejacklin
#2 Posted : Monday, February 10, 2014 11:02:56 AM
Rank: Forum user
Groups: IOSH member , London Metropolitan, Offshore

This sums up the situation pretty well:

http://www.healthandsafe...content/refusal-wear-ppe

Ultimately Health and Safety law trumps disability legislation. The issue is not whether it is discriminatory to restrict someone (it is) but whether it is justifiable.

The same may apply to age:

http://www.frettens.co.u...uiting_firefighters_is_a

Regards,

Mark
peter gotch
#3 Posted : Monday, February 10, 2014 1:07:04 PM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Communications and Media , Construction, Fire Risk Management, IOSH member, Public Services, West of Scotland

But equal opportunities will trump H&S unless the risks are sufficient to justify discrimination.

HSE currently consulting on extending exemptions for Sikhs wearning turbans from requiring to wear hard hats to extend from construction only (current position - but has fallen foul of equal ops legislation) to most if not all sectors.
Frank Hallett
#4 Posted : Monday, February 10, 2014 5:08:46 PM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Essex , Hazardous Industries, IOSH member

Sorry Peter - but currently the H&S [Criminal] Law is clear, it absolutely takes precedence over the Equality Act which is Civil Law.

Adale - the attempt to pass this off as an HR issue is fundamentally wrong - it is pure & simple a H&S issue.

However, despite the draconian insistence on "no facial hair" [the usual standard quoted without reference to a face-fit test] that does not necessarily actually mean no facial hair - the real outcome test of the CoSHH RA should be that, so far as is reasonably practicable, the wearer is not foreseeably exposed to any airborne contaminant above the EH40 defined WEL or equivalent derived value of there is no definitive WEL.

What we should be considering is that the face-fit test defines whether the wearer can achieve a sufficiently good seal with the facepiece to ensure compliance with EH40 - mostly they won't with any sort of stubble, let alone a beard!

I personally consider that with close-fitting RPE it will be effectively impossible to exempt a failure of a face-fit test on Equality Act grounds and continue to expose the individual to the risk.

The issue of turbans for Sikhs is a "red-hearing" here; and in itself, I consider that exemptions of such headgear are fundamentally flawed as very few turbans actually provide equivalent protection to the crown of the head as to a "hard-hat".

Lastly, why do you not wish to consider loose-fit RPE Adale? It may actually be the answer to your need to adopt "reasonable adjustments" under the Equality Act yet still enable compliance with the CoSHH requirement.

Frank Hallett

Victor Meldrew
#5 Posted : Monday, February 10, 2014 8:41:41 PM
Rank: Super forum user


Groups: East Midlands , IOSH member, Sports Grounds and Events

Due to an increased requirement for face fit testing I arranged to be trained myself a couple of weeks ago so that I can then deliver qualitative face fit testing. During the training this very question was asked. We were told and given the appropriate literature which stated;

"A fit test should not be conducted if you have any facial hair growth in the area where the facepiece seal meets the face. This is because a reliable seal can only be achieved if you are clean-shaven in the area where the facepiece seal touches the face. Candidates should be asked to be suitably clean-shaven for the fit test".

The follow-up question of "what if they refuse"? was met with "ok in that case they won't be able to do the work that requires them to wear a facepiece".
walker
#6 Posted : Tuesday, February 11, 2014 8:28:40 AM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Hazardous Industries , IOSH member, Mentor Committee, Midland

ADALE wrote:


I do not want to digress onto loose fitting RPE, as this is more a HR issue, and other options are currently being looked at. Any assistance is gratefully received.


Not a HR issue IMHO
AND you need to consider loose fit RPE
As Frank says "reasonable adjustments"
Stern
#7 Posted : Thursday, February 13, 2014 5:40:27 PM
Rank: Forum user
Groups: Construction , IOSH member, Midland

You can't face fit a mask to somebody who has a beard. If they refuse to shave off their beard (for religious beliefs or otherwise) then you have a two simple choices:

- Reassign them onto works which do not need them to wear RPE at all
- Provide them with RPE which does not rely on an airtight seal to operate (loose fitting RPE)

Hope this helps
RayRapp
#8 Posted : Thursday, February 13, 2014 6:59:42 PM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Careers consultation forum , IOSH member, London Metropolitan, Railway

I fully appreciate that this kind of topic can provide emotive response. That said, I disagree with any exemptions for PPE on the grounds or belief or religion. If a person feels disinclined to wear the required PPE for whatever reason, then they can't do the task. Indeed, there are many construction sites which display a notice board with pictograms showing the required PPE to work on the site followed by - 'No PPE, no work'. Sounds fair enough to me.

CarlT
#9 Posted : Thursday, February 13, 2014 10:31:52 PM
Rank: Forum user
Groups: Construction , East Anglia, IOSH member

The only time this becomes a HR issue is if the employee refuses to obey an instruction given in the interest of h&s.

As has been stated, if the employee is unable to use the ppe correctly then the only viable options are to use a different form of ppe or assign them other tasks.
colinreeves
#10 Posted : Friday, February 14, 2014 2:07:21 PM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Highlands and Islands , IOSH member, Offshore

A bit of fairly relevant light relief!

http://www.shetlandtimes...-crew-because-of-beards/
Stern
#11 Posted : Monday, February 17, 2014 9:46:08 AM
Rank: Forum user
Groups: Construction , IOSH member, Midland

Slightly off topic but whilst we're on the subject of PPE and religious exemptions, i actually visited the JSP factory in Oxfordshire last year and got to see how their hardhats are manufactured and tested.

The testing process involves putting a hat on a mannequin's head and then lifting and dropping a blunt weight onto it using a kind of guillotine contraption. They they do the same again but with a pointed weight.

Naturally the question of turbans vs hardhats came up and they said they'd actually tested one. They got a turban, a load of fake hair and a Sikh to tie it all up properly and guess what.... On the blunt impact test it actually performed BETTER than a standard EN397 hardhat! On the flipside it did very little when tested with the pointed weight. Bit of useless info but interesting nonetheless.
Frank Hallett
#12 Posted : Monday, February 17, 2014 9:55:17 AM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Essex , Hazardous Industries, IOSH member

Not useless info at all Stern - very relevant when dciding on whether a properly constructed Sikh turban will fulfill the assessed need for protection.

Incidentally, there are several other forms of turban that are constructed differently depending upon local cultural variations - not all turbans will provide the same type or degree of protection!

Frank Hallett
steve e ashton
#13 Posted : Monday, February 17, 2014 1:16:40 PM
Rank: Super forum user
Groups: Construction , Consultancy, Edinburgh, IOSH member

As I recall it the exemption from the old head protection regs was for Sikhs not for turbans.?
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