A Clean Shave is Lawful and Reasonable

Tasmanian Water and Sewerage Corp (TasWater) v  Communications, Electrical, Electronic, Information, Postal, Plumbing and Allied Services Union of Australia (the Union) [2024] FWC 786 

A recent decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC) offers clarity for employers on whether it is reasonable to require employees to be clean shaven to ensure that respiratory masks fit properly. This has been a contentious issue between employees and management.

The Facts: 

Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is required in this workplace due to the risks of asbestos and crystalline silica associated when cutting through cement, bricks, asphalt and other substances to access pipes. The fit testing standard AS/NZS 16975.3:2023 and manufacturer instructions specify that employees using the supplied RPE must be clean shaven.

TasWater had directed all workers to comply with a revised Personal Protective Equipment Procedure following extensive consultation and outlined that it would be enforcing the procedure.

Following a dispute raised by The Union, TasWater applied under s739 of the Fair Work Act for the FWC to deal with a dispute over the requirement to be clean shaving whilst using RPE.

Findings and Reasons: 

The employer’s Head of Health and Safety was able to provide significant documentary evidence of employee consultation including emails, meetings and toolbox talks with employees, delegates and H&S Representatives which certainly assisted the employers argument.  

Deputy President Val Gostencnik found that shaving was not onerous given the risks involved and that it was indeed lawful and reasonable based on the following:

Key Takeaways for Employers: