It’s a pretty common dream to be a firefighter when you’re little. While most kids usually end up taking a different career path, some still want to be a firefighter. It’s a noble profession and if you’re reading this, you’re probably planning on becoming a firefighter yourself. You’ve probably heard that you can’t have piercings on the job and you’re wondering if that’s true. If you’re a fan of your piercings, we have bad news: It’s true. We’ll explain why and what you can do to preserve your piercing off the clock if you want to.
No firefighters can not wear piercings, some of the reasons being:
• Piercings Are a Safety Hazard to You
• Piercings Could Endanger People You’re Trying to Save
• Fire Departments May Think Piercings Look Unprofessional
In this article we will discuss why firefighters can not wear piercngs as well as what you can do if you really want one.
Piercings Are a Safety Hazard to You
Most fire departments have a policy against wearing piercings while on duty primarily because it is a safety hazard. If you’ve ever touched something metal after leaving it in a hot car for a long period of time or if you’ve simply touched a hot stove, you probably know that metal can get pretty hot. This is because metal is a heat sink. In layman’s terms, metal cannot dispel heat faster than it absorbs it.
If hot metal directly touches the skin, our first reaction is to immediately move our hands away as soon as possible. If a metal object is directly pierced into your skin, you can’t do this. This will lead to severe burns in the affected area. Keep in mind that most hot stoves we pull our hands away from in a split second tend to be a few hundred degrees. To put it in perspective, an average house fire can reach 1500 degrees and firefighters have to spend a comparatively long time in those temperatures. It’s easy to see why many fire departments don’t want people having piercings while on the job. There are some that won’t even let you wear things like watches on the job because of the possibility of melting plastic or metal burning your skin.
Having a burning piercing can hinder your ability to fight fires. If you’re hunched over in agony because your piercing is burning your body, you can’t exactly fight fires or escape from a dangerous situation quickly. You’ll have to rely on your crewmates to rescue you and that keeps them in a dangerous situation longer than they’d have been if you simply left the piercings at home. You may not be able to save people.
Glasses and Firefighting; Are they allowed?
Piercings Could Endanger People You’re Trying to Save
When they are called to put out a fire or to intervene in a life-threatening situation, firefighters have to move quickly. One of the things they need to have is personal protection equipment (or PPE). PPE needs to be put on in a precise way so that smoke and heat don’t get through it.
Most PPE is not designed with body piercings in mind. More likely than not, you will spend precious seconds (that endangered people do not have) struggling to come up with a temporary fix to make your PPE fit over your piercings. The thing about temporary fixes is that they typically come undone in a high-stress situation. Like a fire for instance. Time spent fighting with your piercings and PPE is time that isn’t spent saving people or helping your crew.
Fire Departments May Think Piercings Look Unprofessional
While cultural norms around piercings and tattoos are changing outside of professional environments, professional environments have trouble adjusting to those changed norms. This is particularly true in government jobs.
A lot of people that have objections to piercings at work tend to be older. They don’t like the new fashion trends like tattoos and piercings. Older people also tend to complain a lot to public officials. They also tend to vote in large numbers. Since the people running the civil service are elected officials, they’re concerned about what older voters think. They give orders to the fire chiefs under them to set the dress codes.
There’s also the matter of public engagements. Firefighters have to deal with the public outside of emergency situations. Firefighters often have to march in parades, participate in press conferences and news interviews, or help in fundraisers for non-profits. Fire chiefs probably don’t want people with a lot of body piercings to be their public face. It may not seem like a good reason compared to the others but it is still a reason.
What You Can Do
I’ll be honest and say that preserving the piercing isn’t worth the effort. A fashion statement isn’t worth risking your career over, much less your life. There are other avenues for self-expression that don’t involve you getting hurt or accidentally hurting someone else on the job.
However, if you do want to keep your piercings but have no choice but to remove them on the job, there are some things you can do. There’s a possibility that if you remove the piercing it will close up and you’ll have to get pierced again. You can use products like piercing retainers to keep the piercing open. Fire departments may allow this but you’ll have to check with them.
You may have to get a hidden piercing if you’re desperate. Some fire departments will allow piercings that are covered by your turnout gear (IE no facial piercings). But this can come down to variance. Some may allow it but require you to sign a waiver absolving departments of liability if you get hurt. Others will have rules that say no piercings period. You’ll have to talk to your fire chief.
Are piercing bans a civil rights violation?
While it may seem like it, the answer is typically no. Employers have the right to set the rules for their workplace. Where it might be considered a civil rights violation is if the rules are applied unequally. If one gender is allowed to have piercings but the other is not, that’s a problem. Chances are this won’t come up though.
I want to keep my piercings but still save lives. Are there any alternatives?
Unfortunately, the answer will typically be no. Most government jobs do have rules against face piercings for various reasons. The best I can tell you is that if saving lives is truly important to you, you’ll learn other avenues of self-expression.
To learn how to best prepare and study for your firefighter exam click here.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.
Hi! I’m Shawn Chun and I’m so grateful that you’re here.
Civil servants are some of the hardest working, most generous people I know. I have been passionate about all types of civil service career paths for years now and enjoy sharing everything I continue to learn about them.
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