Shaving your beard could save your life. That’s the premise of a new campaign by WorkSafe New Zealand to help businesses and workers look after their health.

WorkSafe’s Life Shavers campaign will raise awareness of the need for workers who wear respiratory protective equipment (RPE) for work to be clean shaven.

“When our inspectors are out and about they see a lot of workers with beards while wearing RPE, and these workers usually don’t realise this is putting their health at risk,” says Api Poutasi, Manager Health, Health & Technical Services.

“Even a small amount of facial hair can prevent RPE from forming a protective seal, potentially exposing workers to all manner of materials while they work.

“We want to make sure all workers are looking after their health. Getting cancer or another illness because you prioritised stylish facial hair isn’t a good idea.”

WorkSafe estimates show cancers and respiratory harm account for 31% of work-related health problems in New Zealand.

“Wearing RPE is one step to prevent yourself adding to this statistic, but it needs to go hand-in-hand with having a shave to make sure any RPE which is worn is forming a proper seal.”

The campaign serves as a reminder for workers and business of the small things which add up to help keep workers safe.

“If you wouldn’t go on a construction site without wearing boots, if you wouldn’t drive your car without wearing your seatbelt, you shouldn’t wear RPE without having a shave.”

Mr Poutasi says businesses still need to look at their actions around their workers and ensure appropriate actions are in place.

“As with all risk mitigation and interventions, businesses must consider every situation individually because not every worker or site is the same.

“Not every worker can shave. For some workers facial hair is part of their culture or faith. Businesses need to consider alternative protective measures for those workers – there are ways to prevent dust and materials being inhaled, or maybe those workers need to perform another role on site to avoid that risk.”

The Life Shavers campaign video can be viewed on the Life Shavers Work Related Health page. 

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Email: media@worksafe.govt.nz