To Shave, or Not to Shave

Photo via Garrett Heath @ Flickr

During this isolation period, I have done as many great men decide to do… and given up my facial shaving duties. Being in the petroleum business I have had a few opportunities during stretches of my job to grow a beard. I even maintained one for several years at a time. When I have grown the beard I neatly trimmed it and groomed around my neck and cheek area so I don’t look like some hobo. Nowadays, my wife said I am turning into a werewolf.

Well, I have embraced the homeless look during the pandemic. From my everyday work attire to my scruffy face. During my Tech days in Lubbock I had several failed attempts to grow a full beard, so instead I always opted for a goatee. When I left school for the petroleum industry, the company I joined was a downstream petroleum refinery. They enforced a strict facial hair policy. You could grow a neatly trimmed mustache or sideburns; but no other facial hair was allowed.

This is the norm for most oil and gas companies that operate facilities. The main reason is making sure a respirator mask can form a tight seal around the face. A lot of facilities have respirators handy in case of a chemical release or H2S in the area. We get trained on these procedures, and even have annual fit tests to check how the respirators seal to our faces.

There’s a long history here, one that goes into OSHA regulations specifically calling out beards as being not allowed for respirator seals. There has been some back and forth, and the standards have been revised. It is also a hot topic of debate amongst the oil patch employees, saying oil companies implemented the rule to make us all look more “professional” on the job.

As I said before, I have gone through several stretches where I have maintained a beard at my job. This was due to me working on greenfield projects that had not been placed into service. The upkeep of a beard is no joke, and it requires much more pampering than i could have ever imagined when making it look neat and trimmed. But, not anymore! For six straight weeks I have not touched the thing, and it has taken on a life of it’s own. I feel free and unbounded by petty (or critical) corporate rules.

So, here we are… check it out.

Let me know if you fellow Red Raiders have let your facial hair grown rampant during the isolation period. Send us a picture, best beard gets a dump-truck load of special STP bucks from me.


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