Construction Firm Health & Safety Beard Ban Draws Criticism
A company that has decided to ban beards at work and which requires all employees to be clean shaven so they can wear their dust masks effectively has been criticised by the biggest construction union in the UK.
Housing maintenance firm Mears recently told employees doing social housing maintenance work in the borough of Tower Hamlets in London during a tool box talk that beards would be banned. The company stated that all workers would need to be clean shaven so they could wear their face masks safely when in dusty environments, with the only exceptions to be medical or religious reasons for such facial hair. In some circumstances, goatees may also be deemed acceptable by the company.
And now union Unite has condemned the move, calling the company arrogant and the issue a very delicate one that has personal, religious and cultural significance.
Regional official for London Mark Soave said: “Unite will always put the safety of our members first and creating huge resentment and anger among your workforce is never the way forward. Mears needs to withdraw this decree and enter into a proper consultation with Unite and the workforce.”
National health and safety adviser Susan Murray made further comments, saying that before any policy is rolled out company-wide, a full consultation should be held. Policies must recognise the diversity of the workforce and employees should be consulted before any decisions made.
This isn’t the first time that an interesting health and safety rule has been introduced by a company, however – and it certainly won’t be the last. Train operator Abellio Greater Anglia, for example, recently asked its guards to stop hole-punching tickets because some workers complained that they were getting repetitive strain injury because of it.
And students at the University of East Anglia celebrating their graduations were told in 2016 that they couldn’t throw their mortarboards up in the air because some graduates had been injured by falling hats in the past.
As you can see, it can be quite easy to get a bit carried away when it comes to health and safety in the workplace – and what might seem like a good idea at the time could easily see you criticised heavily as a result.
It’s worth noting what chair of the Health and Safety Executive Judith Hackitt said back in 2012: “It’s really important that we are all ready to challenge stupid decisions made in the name of health and safety, and that we as the regulator give the public the confidence to do so.
“Not only do the jobsworths who make these ridiculous edicts waste time and money, and interfere needlessly with harmless activities, they also undermine our efforts to reduce the number of people made ill, injured or killed by their work.”
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