By Allan Preston
November 14 2018
A police officer would need “a moustache like a walrus” to stop a breathing mask working properly, an expert has told a tribunal in Belfast.
The evidence was heard at the second day of an employment tribunal where a PSNI constable is fighting for the right to sport a moustache after the force introduced a facial hair ban over safety concerns it could interfere with respiratory masks.
Evidence yesterday centred on whether a “well-trimmed moustache” was safe to use with the breathing masks.
Richard Gates, the director of the UK company Hazmat Control which sells specialist respiratory equipment, appeared as an expert witness for the constable.
He claimed “you would need a moustache like a walrus” to stop a mask working properly.
He added that it was practically “impossible” for a trimmed moustache to pose any risk.
The lawyer for the PSNI called this “an extreme point of view” that could not guarantee safety for each individual case. The Armed Response Unit (ARU) constable agreed having a full beard or goatee could pose a safety risk with masks. He also said as an older man with alopecia, growing a moustache was “the one thing I can do” for confidence issues.
He said the ban was unfair as officers in the ARU had not even been trained in respiratory equipment at the time, although this has since been corrected.
When the policy came into effect at the start of this year, the constable defied his superiors by keeping the moustache.
He was told his “non-compliance” meant he would be “temporarily” redeployed to road policing, with three days notice.
The constable said in reality this was a transfer and the notice was unreasonable for a family man with young children.
A PSNI lawyer said it was the right of the Chief Constable to redeploy officers on a temporary basis, and 15 days notice only needed to be given if it was reasonable to do so.
The constable said he had identified another suitable role closer to home, but was told this couldn’t happen as other officers might grow moustaches in order to get shorter journeys to work.
Instead of redeployment, the constable was on sick leave for a month and returned clean shaven to the ARU.
He is still opposing the policy on gender and religious grounds.
The officer also accused the Police Federation of “being asleep at the wheel” for supporting the PSNI facial hair ban.
The federation represents rank and file officers and backed a change to PSNI policy in 2017 banning facial hair.
The constable said the federation had failed to consult officers over the policy, which he said was so vague it was like “the Emperor’s new clothes”.
A lawyer for the PSNI said the Police Federation were “very supportive” of the policy.
But the constable told the tribunal: “They were asleep at the wheel at looking after the welfare of officers. There was no real consultation… This is one person’s opinion that goes against (the rest of us).”
The tribunal continues today.
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Articles may come from parliamentary reports, various public news feeds and Google News Search. Content is republished here for context. Copyright is respected and remains with the original author at all times. Original Article:https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/police-officer-tells-tribunal-that-ban-on-facial-hair-is-unfair-37525527.html