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Case 149 - Blanket requirements to wear a hard hat can create problems for turban wearing Sikhs in non-construction sectors

Issue

Some employers have precautionary blanket requirements for the use of hard hats rather than making their approach relevant to the particular circumstances and hazards and proportionate to the risks.

Blanket requirements to wear a hard hat can create unnecessary problems for turban wearing Sikhs in sectors other than construction (where there is an exemption under the Employment Act).

Panel decision

A blanket requirement to wear a hard hat can create unnecessary difficulties for Sikhs who wear turbans in sectors other than construction (where there is an exemption under the Employment Act). PPE including hard hats should only be specified for use where there are risks to health and safety that cannot be adequately controlled in other ways. Employers should limit the requirement for hard hats to those areas where there are real risks and only apply a blanket policy requiring them to be worn in cases where the employer can demonstrate that this is the only appropriate way of dealing with the risks.

Update

From 1st October 2015, turban-wearing Sikhs are exempt from the requirement to wear head protection in any workplace. This is because the previous exemption in the Employment Act 1989 (which was for construction sites only) has been extended by section 6 of the Deregulation Act 2015. A limited exception remains in place for particularly dangerous and hazardous tasks performed by individuals working in occupations which involve providing an urgent response to an emergency, where a risk assessment has identified that head protection is essential for the protection of the individual e.g. a fire fighter entering a burning building or dealing with hazardous materials.

2015-09-30