None Picture: THINKSTOCK

BHP Billiton fired Jim Felton for refusing to shave off his whiskers. Felton, who worked as an underground truck driver at BHP’s Olympic Dam mine in Australia, refused to shave off his goatee and moustache, saying it was his "personal attribute", but BHP said the fuzz had to come off because it has a policy for its employees to have clean-shaven faces to ensure their respiratory masks work properly.

BHP had given him a number of warnings to shave, but Felton stood firm that it was his "liberty of right". Australia’s Fair Work Commission ruled BHP was in the right. Taking a stand for what you believe to be right is one thing but to lose a job because of a goatee, which, to be honest, is not as manly or worth defending as a full beard, seems to be taking it a bit too far.

Twirly beard catches the …

MAYBE BHP Billiton had a point in asking Felton to step away with his hirsute chin and top lip.

British news sites have been running stories about how grubby beards are, with some citing a study that suggests facial hair has more faecal matter than a dirty toilet.

But some sites, most noticeably the Guardian, pointed out the term "study" was a little strong and was based on a TV reporter in Mexico sending swabs taken from a variety of men’s beards that had been sent for analysis. The microbiologist later interviewed on the results said the bacteria present on the swabs were "enterics", which are found in the intestine. "Those are the types of things you’d find in faeces," he said.

It was bound to raise a stink, and obviously some more sensationalist news outlets seized on the "poo in beards" angle. Anyone who has read Roald Dahl’s The Twits will already have a view of beards as grubby things, receptacles of food and bogies.

A separate study in the journal Anaesthesia showed beards to be bacteria havens. "What they found was that men with beards do harbour a significant number of bacteria, more than nonbearded men and women," Professor Anthony Hilton, head of biological and biomedical sciences at Aston University told MailOnline.

Wise words

"THERE was an old man with a beard, who said: ‘It is just as I feared! Two owls and a hen, four larks and a wren have all built their nests in my beard’."

Edward Lear, English poet (1812-1888).

E-mail insider@bdfm.co.za

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