Ask ECRI: Mask Fit Testing for Staff Who Have Beards

March 9, 2021 | Health System Risk Management


​​​​​​A member inquired about fit testing of face masks for staff members who have beards, including whether they can sign a waiver to continue to work in COVID-19 patient care areas. In our reply, we indicated that such a waiver is inappropriate in any care setting, for the reasons explained below.

​​Decades of evidence have shown that beards that extend to or past the seal of a face mask are not adequately fit and, therefore, create a risk for spreading or acquiring an infection. Based on Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, facial hair is allowed as long as it does not protrude under the respirator seal, or extend far enough to interfere with the device's valve function. The OSHA standard applies to any employee in any industry who requires the type of airborne protection provided by an N95 mask, and thus requires the right fit. (See this![](/_layouts/images/icpdf.png)chart from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for styles that should work. ...

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