Most jobs would not give women wearing make-up a second look. The same goes for women with long hair. However, the fire service is not like most jobs, and female firefighters are expected to be able to perform all the requirements of the job. This does not mean long hair and make-up are forbidden in the fire service for female firefighters.
Female firefighters can wear some make-up and keep their long hair in the fire service. However, there may be limits on how much make-up is acceptable based on their exact jobs in the fire service. Likewise, long hair is acceptable for women in the fire service, however, there will be times the hair needs to be pulled up or tucked under hats or helmets.
The fire service regulations and recommendations are remarkably similar to the military. Women can wear their hair in a manner that does not affect their job performance, does not pose a hazard in the work environment, and looks professional. Similarly, make-up falls under the same category. Excessive make-up will seldom be allowed, but conservative amounts of make-up that do not affect the job performance are allowed.
Rules and Regulations
There are not a lot of career fire departments in the United States who employ women right now. While there are a large number of women in the fire service, most are in the volunteer realm or function in support roles, such a providing medical coverage on the ambulances. As this changes and more women join the fire service, the approach to make-up and long hair will change as well.
When considering a job in the fire service, part of the research for a woman wishing to become a firefighter would be to see what is allowed in the fire department in which they are applying for a job. Women are used to certain routines and amounts of make-up, so they should be sure to research and see if the regulations about make-up and hair are comfortable for them.
The rules and regulations that are established for women in the individual fire departments are based on past experiences of those departments, job descriptions, and generally accepted best practices in the fire service.
Because most career fire departments are already part of a municipal or government agency, the regulations for hair and make-up may already be established by the parent organization, actually leaving little room for the fire department to make any exceptions.
At times, certain make-up products may be required, such a water-resistant make-up or make-up that will not smear or smudge and leave trace amounts on equipment and gear. This may increase the cost a woman currently spends on make-up and should be considered when researching employment possibilities.
Most of the time, the decision on acceptable make-up and hairstyles is subjective, and in many cases, there will be a man making the decision. Personal style and comfort levels may need to change to conform to the expectations of the fire department. This is another reason that, if a woman would like to wear make-up in the fire service, some research would need to be done before applying.
Job Description as a Determinant
The fire service varies greatly in the tasks and jobs taken on by its employees. Depending on the size of the department, there can be many jobs beyond simply being a firefighter. When fire departments provide other services, such as providing Emergency Medical Services (EMS), that can greatly increase the possible jobs within the fire department.
Within each of these job classifications, the amount of make-up or requirements for how hair is worn can vary greatly. For example, a female firefighter riding an engine might have a different set of requirements than that of an administrative job based out of the office. And these may both differ from the requirements placed on a woman who is providing patient care in the ambulance.
Firefighting will be the most restrictive of the job descriptions. Firefighters are regularly exposed to the elements, operate in harsh conditions, and will be wearing and using masks and other equipment that could be hindered by excessive make-up or other hairstyles that would obstruct the wearer from donning the equipment safely.
Women choosing to join the fire service as a medical provider on the ambulance would also need to be able to operate under some restrictions as far as hairstyle and make-up. This job requires a lot of patient interactions were kneeling and reaching over and around patients would require hair to be restrained.
Wondering how hard it is to be a female firefighter? Check out our article HERE!
Hazards on the Job as a Determinant
Firefighting is an inherently dangerous occupation. Daily, firefighters can be exposed to numerous hazards which could be compounded by long hair and, at times, makeup. This is one of the reasons many departments limit hair length for male firefighters and enforce restrictive standards for female firefighters.
Some of these hazards include exposure to moving parts. Hair can get caught in the parts and pulled out or the firefighter can be pulled into the moving parts. This is the same reason loose clothes are generally not allowed. These moving parts can occur on calls such as vehicular and industrial accidents, structure fires, and wildland fires.
Some hazards involving moving parts can occur during a firefighter’s daily responsibilities around the firehouse, including operational checkoffs of saw and pumps, roll-up doors on equipment compartments, and when operating compressors and other specialized tools.
Another hazard is the need to quickly doon and doffs structural firefighting equipment. At times, firefighters’ survival and the survival of those they protect can come down to minutes, even seconds. The layers a firefighter must don (put on and wear) protect them under harsh conditions.
Firefighters need to be able to don the gear in a very quick manner. Jackets, hoods, helmets, and masks are all worn around the shoulders, neck, and head area. Long hair can be a hindrance in safely and quickly donning the gear.
While it can be done with long hair, the hair must be restrained and tied back as to not protrude from the gear or compromise, and of the seals and seams the equipment is designed to develop and maintain when worn correctly.
Make-up can compromise safety while wearing a Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) mask. The mask fits tightly around the jaw, cheeks, and forehead. It must fit very tight to the skin to form a proper seal. As the mask is worn, it will rub areas of the skin and the wearer will more than likely begin to sweat, at times profusely.
If make-up were to begin to run or otherwise break loose from the skin, it could become a real hazard. The firefighter can not access her face to rub or wipe away any make-up, and if it were to get in her eyes it could pose a threat to being able to safely see or cause irritation that could distract from essential duties.
Does the fire service have similar restrictions to male grooming??
Yes, the fire service has similar limitations on grooming for male firefighters. Male firefighters are almost exclusively expected to have short hair. This is to ensure a certain look of professionalism, much like male police officers and military member’s appearances.
The fire service also requires no beard growth while on the job. This is for safety reasons, predominantly to ensure the SCBA masks have a good seal around the firefighter’s face. There have been recent exceptions to this for religious and health reasons, but it requires the firefighters with beards to abstain from certain firefighting activities.
What about volunteer fire department hair and make-up requirements?
Volunteer fire departments can vary greatly on the requirements they place on both female and male firefighters. A lot of it has to do with the geographic locations and expected call volumes and demographics of the volunteer fire departments. There are also differences in the desired presentation of firefighters throughout volunteer fire departments.
Volunteer fire departments that cover urban areas tend to have more restrictions on hair, make-up, and grooming than those that are located rurally. The nature of the calls of urban departments tends to be higher and of a more technical nature overall. Because of this, volunteer fire departments in urban areas tend to have more restrictions on appearance.
Rural departments tend to run more wildland fire and medical-related calls. Few rural departments run structure fires regularly, and many still do not even have SCBA available for their firefighters. Because of the more relaxed call volume and approach to running calls, these rural volunteer fire departments have more lax standards for appearance and grooming.
The desire to look professional also leads some volunteer fire departments to adhere to restrictions on appearance and grooming. Beyond operational and safety influences on decision making, simply wanting a professional-looking membership ranks high for some volunteer fire departments.
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