There’s no missing the fact that beards are in fashion – but workers at Guardian Glass in Goole are bucking the trend in the interest of their health.
As part of a drive to ensure that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) is not just used – but used effectively – Guardian Glass has introduced a clean-shave policy.
Health and safety manager Martyn James said:
“Ask any worker in a glass plant about risk factors and they’ll name dust in the top three. Obviously, we regularly do face-fit testing with all staff who use tight-fitting RPE to ensure protection is adequate – and you can pass a face fit test with a beard. But that’s not the same as being able to get a good seal on your mask – day in, day out – when you’re busy on the job. We need to be sure our staff have the appropriate protection all the time – and that meant asking anyone who works with tight-fitting RPE to be clean shaven.”
To ease the change, Martyn and the shift managers gave staff plenty of notice and provided facts and evidence about the need for the policy. There was minimal resistance to it once the reasons were understood.
Practical measures introduced alongside the policy include on site shaving facilities, so if staff have to unexpectedly carry out a job requiring a dust mask they can have a shave first if needs be.
The policy takes a measured approach: any facial hair that doesn’t interfere with the seal of the mask is acceptable; staff members who have a skin condition of other clear reason they cannot shave every day are offered duties that don’t require RPE, or potentially alterative RPE where it’s viable.
The policy doesn’t just apply to staff, but also to contractors working in parts of the plant where a dust mask is needed. Martyn said:
“We’ve never had anyone refuse when we’ve had to ask them to shave before starting work on site. We had one contractor who ended up shaving twice during his twelve hours on site with us! In fact, I think contractors find it reassuring to know they’re on a site where their safety really has been thought of.
“We don’t want anyone exposed to dust – it’s as simple as that.”
The specific conditions of glass plants, particularly working at high temperatures, make RPE a challenge across the glass industry. Such industry-specific challenges are exactly what the British Glass Health and Safety Forward scheme is designed to address. It’s a forum that lets health and safety managers across glass manufacturing share information and present concerns collectively. For example in October 2017 the group visited the Arco’s safety product testing labs to learn about latest developments and share the results of their sector personal protective equipment (PPE) survey.
British Glass environment, health and safety adviser Paul Pearcy said:
“When Guardian talked about its clean shave policy at our Health and Safety Committee, other members were really interested to hear about how they’d made it work. The Health and Safety Executive’s manufacturing strategy identifies occupational lung disease as a main priority and we’re pleased to recognise a member taking proactive measures and sharing good practice in this area.”
Guardian Glass is one of the world's largest manufacturers of float glass and fabricated glass products. It manufactures, sells and exports clear float glass from its plant in Goole, East Yorkshire, which employs approximately 300 people. Although primarily focussed on flat glass products for the UK, being part of Guardian Glass Europe means they’re always open to new and exciting innovations. www.guardianglass.co.uk
Guardian Glass is a member of British Glass’ Health and Safety Forward scheme - which ensures and demonstrates that the glass sector is forward looking, and thinking, in terms of health and safety.
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