Get Shaving, Oil Men Told; FURY OVER 'NO BEARDS' RULING

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN MORGAN

BEARDED oil workers are being forced to shave to comply with new safety rules on North Sea rigs.

Bosses at oil giant Exxon- Mobil claim the men's whiskers are dangerous.

Goatees, long sideburns, and wide moustaches would stop essential breathing masks fitting properly over the face, they say.

The firm is now forcing hundreds of offshore workers in the Beryl field to attend work clean- shaven, allowing those who like facial hair to grow only narrow moustaches.

But angry oil workers have slammed the move as a "major over- reaction" and have been backed by facial-hair activists of The Beard Liberation Front.

The group, founded last year to fight "beardism", claim ExxonMobil is displaying an irrational prejudice towards facial hair.

Keith Flett, the group's secretary, said: "It just sounds like some person in head office saying they don't like the image of beards.

"I don't see how a closely shaved, trim beard should be a problem when wearing a breathing mask."

Mr Flett is now urging workers to take the company to court if they are made to shave.

He said: "Many men will have had beards when they were hired, and for the employer to change things suddenly there needs to be a pretty watertight reason.

"It sounds as though they have a better chance than most of fighting an industrial tribunal."

The rules banning beards have been issued in line with UK safety legislation introduced this month. All workers who are required to wear respiratory protective equipment as part of their duties will now be tested to check their facial hair does not cause a safety risk.

Bosses claim the test will ensure a worker's moustache does not loosen the seal of a safety mask when attached to the face.

If the hair is too bushy, the mask will not protect the wearer and he will run the risk of breathing in contaminated air if there is a leak on the platform.

However, union bosses claim the tests are humiliating for workers who may feel singled out if they have a beard.

Jake Malloy, General Secretary of the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, is demanding a meeting with ExxonMobil bosses. …