Something that often gets brought up in conversations is whether, or not, firefighters can have tattoos. And the same question gets asked of all frontline jobs.
From doctors to nurses to police officers, all the public wants to know is whether, or not, they are allowed tattoos. And if you are a person who is looking to go into firefighting, then you are probably asking this question more than most.
A lot of people think that frontline workers aren’t allowed tattoos, although most people cannot tell you why, however this isn’t actually the case. In most cases, yes, it is perfectly fine for firefighters and frontline workers to have tattoos.
But, a lot of fire departments will expect their employees to cover up these tattoos while they are on active duty.
In modern society, it can seem like quite a strange thing that the act of simply having ink on your skin could affect your dream of being a firefighter.
But, this comes from a long-term issue regarding employment regulations and the control that employers are able to have over the people that work for them.
Tattoos are a lot more accepted in today’s society, and yet a lot of people thinking of going into the fire service still question their suitability simply because they have tattoos.
So, in this guide, we’ll be taking a look at everything you need to know regarding whether, or not, firefighters can have tattoos.
Can Firefighters have Tattoos?
As we have said, yes, you absolutely can be a firefighter if you have tattoos. The fire service is an incredibly important job, and they play a vital role in keeping people safe and alive.
So, the thought that you might not be able to sign up, simply because you have had ink added to your skin, might seem ridiculous. But, this is a valid concern for most prospective firefighters, and a question that most people ask about upon their first interview to be a firefighter.
There are lots of careers where tattoos and piercings have been looked at unfavorably. In high school, you often have teachers suggesting you should only have conservative piercings and tattoos that can be easily kept out of sight if you want a chance of being employed.
The sad thing about this is that it is often the case, most employers do look unfavorably on people with tattoos and piercings. But, thankfully, society is changing, and it is becoming more and more widely accepted.
Piercings pose a valid concern if you want to be a firefighter, simply because you will likely be exposing yourself to high temperatures.
Most piercings have metal jewelry added to them, and metal conducts heat, so it isn’t the best choice. But, there is no health or safety concern for tattoos.
While you can be a firefighter and have tattoos, a lot of fire stations will expect you to cover up your tattoos when you are working. With some tattoos, you might not need to cover them up, simply because your clothes already cover them.
But tattoos on your arms and neck often need to be covered when you are on duty.
There are lots of reasons behind this, but for most fire departments it comes down to the fact that you are representing the entire firehouse.
Tattoos are a way of expressing your own views and opinions, but if these are on show when you are out doing your job, it could be misconceived that these are the opinions of the fire department.
This is the primary reason why most fire departments require their employees to cover their tattoos when they are working.
What are the potential issues of a firefighter having tattoos?
Now, it is easy as an outsider to sit here and wonder why tattoos are such a big deal. After all, firefighting is a hugely important job, so why are tattoos such a big deal? If you have tattoos, then you will not actively be declined from becoming a firefighter.
But as we have said, most fire stations do expect their employees to cover up any tattoos while they are at work.
Like we said earlier, the main reason why fire stations do not want their employees to have tattoos on show is because these employees are representing the fire department.
Tattoos are an example of personal expression, and because of this, it is seen by some to be inappropriate showing these off when you are representing the fire department, and not yourself.
But, one of the other primary reasons why tattoos must be covered during working hours is because tattoos can be easily misconstrued.
Tattoos are often something that are left open to interpretation, and even the most innocent of tattoos could be misinterpreted. In fact, some people find all tattoos offensive, simply because they do not agree with them.
So even simple and innocent tattoos could cause offense to people. If they become offended, then this is going to reflect badly on the fire department, which is why most firehouses ask that you cover tattoos.
However, another reason why you might be expected to cover up your tattoos is because they actually are offensive.
A lot of people are incredibly religious, so if you have tattoos that could offend people due to religious beliefs, you will need to cover them up. The fire department is supposed to help people, not offend them.
If you have these tattoos on show when you are wearing your fire department uniform, then this could lead people to believe that your views are a reflection of the whole fire department. Even though this isn’t actually the case.
Additionally, tattoos that have adult content, such as curse words or explicit images, will always need to be covered up. Regardless of fire department policy. As a firefighter, you will be dealing with people of all ages, children included.
So, you cannot have these tattoos on show when you are doing your job. A parent might be thankful for you saving their child. But, if they then see a sexually explicit tattoo covering your arm, they might think differently. This will just reflect badly on the fire department.
But, one of the other issues that people have in relation to tattoos is professionalism. It might be an old-fashioned view, but a lot of people still think that tattoos are unprofessional.
Like we said earlier, this is still a view that is placed on children when they are in school, and this is mainly because a lot of the older generations feel this way.
In quite a few fire departments, the chiefs who run the place will be part of these generations. This isn’t to say that all fire chiefs will be against tattoos, but some will.
It is not allowed for them to avoid hiring people simply because they have tattoos, but they may treat you differently because of this.
Covering up your tattoos while you work is simply the easiest way to make everybody happy, from those inside the fire department to those you are helping. After all, covering up your tattoos is a small price to pay if you want to spend your life saving others.
Do Firefighters have to hide their tattoos while they are on duty?
As we said earlier, most fire departments will expect their employees to cover up their tattoos while they are on duty. But there are no blanket rules on this, so it is up to each individual fire department whether they expect their employees to do this.
If you look across the country, you will find that there are fire departments that land in completely different areas of this spectrum. Some fire departments are incredibly relaxed, and might not even ask their employees to cover up their tattoos while they are on duty.
But other fire departments might be incredibly strict, even to the point where they expect you to cover your tattoos when simply relaxing in the firehouse.
After all, these rules and regulations often fall to the fire chiefs themselves, so there is a chance that their personal views could affect the rules for the fire house.
Generally speaking, the methods that firehouses suggest for covering up tattoos include:
- Covering leg tattoos at all times when on duty with trousers.
- Covering sleeve/half sleeve tattoos with long sleeved shirts when on duty.
- Using bandages/plasters to cover any tattoos that might be on show on the hands/neck.
Some fire departments may be lenient. For example, some might not expect you to cover tattoos on your fingers or hands as long as they are not rude or offensive.
But other fire departments might employ a zero tolerance policy, especially when it comes to tattoos like these in areas that cannot easily be covered.
If you are training to be a firefighter, and you have tattoos, there is generally no need to immediately worry. Companies are not allowed to not hire you, simply because you have tattoos, and most fire departments are open to compromise when it comes to this.
Although it can seem difficult at the beginning, most fire departments will be able to reach a point of compromise where an individual’s tattoos do not impact the reputation of that department.
But remember, it is actually illegal for potential employers to impact your right to freedom of speech and expression, and this covers tattoos.
So, even if the fire department doesn’t like your tattoos, they cannot prevent you from becoming a firefighter because of them. In most cases, it is best to go in with an open mind, and you will usually reach a point of compromise.
Is this likely to change in the future?
To younger generations, the fact that you have to cover up tattoos for some jobs can seem a little baffling. There are an increasing number of companies that are open to people expressing themselves through their tattoos and appearance.
So, you might be wondering if this intolerance of tattoos in the fire service is likely to change at some point in the future.
While there is no clear sign that the fire service is likely to change their views, you would like to think that they will.
In recent years, self-expression has become so important, and it really seems ridiculous that some applicants to the fire service could be overlooked simply because of their appearance.
After all, this is one of the most important jobs in the country, so why should you be prevented from doing it, simply because you have tattoos?
There are signs that the tides are changing regarding tattoos in the fire service. A greater number of fire stations are beginning to relax their rules regarding tattoos, and this is a big step in the right direction.
But, this still doesn’t mean that fire stations all over the country are changing in their ways.
Change will happen eventually, but in a lot of cases, it is still a far way off. Of course, even once tattoos are accepted openly in the fire service, there will still be restrictions on the types of tattoos that you can have on show.
Even then it will still be seen as unacceptable to have offensive tattoos, sexually explicit tattoos or tattoos with curse words on show. So, even in the future, firefighters will likely still have to cover up their tattoos.
But, hopefully in the future, a time will come where something as simple as ink on your skin will no longer prevent or inhibit you from doing the job of your dreams.
In short, yes, firefighters can have tattoos. But, tattoos are often viewed unfavorably in the fire service. In most fire departments, firefighters with tattoos will be expected to cover them up at all times when they are on duty.
Even if the tattoo isn’t offensive. However, fire stations are not allowed to discriminate against potential firefighters simply because they have tattoos. So, you can have them, but you will probably be expected to cover them up while you are working.