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Stubble, bubble, toil and trouble - firm blasted for beard ban

A construction firm has banned its employees from having beards over "health and safety" concerns, a union says.

Staff working for Mears at a site in Tower Hamlets, east London, were told they had to be clean-shaven so they could wear dust masks safely.

Exceptions will be made for people who cannot shave for medical reasons, a dust mask cannot be worn for medical reasons or a person has a beard for religious reasons.

Goatees may be acceptable as long as it does not impact the fitting of dust masks, a letter to employees reportedly said.

Unite regional official for London, Mark Soave, said: "The arrogance of Mears is hair-raising.

"This is a highly delicate issue, which has huge cultural, religious and personal issues and where sensitivity should be the watchword. Instead members have been handed a decree from on high.

"This is clearly a case of Mears going for the cheapest option and amounts to 'penny pinching stupidity'.

"Other forms of masks are available and these should be offered to existing workers."

Unite national health and safety adviser Susan Murray said: "The use of Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) may be one of the control measures, but the wearing of face masks should be a last resort and priority should always be given to eliminating the risk."

Mears group health and safety director Mark Elkington told the Guardian: "The simple fact is that no dust mask can work effectively unless it forms a seal against the skin.

"That is not possible with a beard or even heavy stubble.

"We are pretty surprised that Unite, who claim to have the safety of workers at heart have taken this disappointing stance."

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