Notice Clarifies NIOSH Definitions of Respirator-Sealing Surfaces, Facial Stubble

Published December 19, 2018

A notice published by NIOSH last month explains the agency’s position regarding respirator-sealing surfaces and facial hair, and clarifies the NIOSH definition of respirator-sealing surfaces, including the primary seal, and facial stubble. The notice applies to all primary seals of tight-fitting full- and half-facepiece respirators and to tight-fitting respirator designs that rely on a neck dam seal.

According to NIOSH, facial hair that lies along the sealing area of a respirator—beards, sideburns, moustaches, or stubble—should not be permitted on employees who are required to wear respirators that rely on tight facepiece fit. The revised notice clarifies that the agency is referring to more than one day or 24 hours’ growth of stubble. The language in the preceding notice referred to “a few days’ growth of stubble.”

The agency defines the primary seal and primary sealing surface as “that part of the respirator that [touches] the wearer’s facial areas (near the nose and mouth for half-mask respirators and including around the eyes for full-facepiece respirators) that provide a gas or dust-tight seal in order to protect the user from the outside contaminant(s).”

This notice supersedes NIOSH’s Oct. 2, 2006, letter to all manufacturers on the agency’s policy for respirator-sealing surfaces and facial hair and the August 2018 version of the notice. View the new notice on the agency’s website.