OSHA estimates over 333,272 eye injuries are reported annually due to struck-by hazards. OSHA’s eye and face protection standard, 29 CFR 1910.133, requires the use of eye and face protection when workers are exposed to eye or face hazards such as flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids. Employers must provide eye and face protection when it has been determined that engineering controls do not eliminate the exposure of potential eye and face injuries created by work practices or conditions.
Face shields can be constructed of either plastic or mesh and as with all forms of eye protection, must meet the requirements specified in American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Z87.1-1968, Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection. It is also required that these certified devices be marked permanently and legibly by the manufacturer, so it can be easily identified.
Prior to face shield use it is the employer’s responsibility to provide training on the use and limitations of the shields. Many employers and employees alike are under the misconception that face shields alone are adequate in providing eye protection. Face shields do not protect employees from impact hazards and must be used in combination with safety glasses or safety goggles. Tasks that would require the use of a face shield include but are not limited to:
- Partner / Stihl saw use
- Grinding steel or concrete
- Hilti gun use
- Handling chemicals that could splash
It is also important that employees learn to maintain face shields in good condition. Dirty or scratched lenses could impair the user’s vision leading to potential injuries. Prior to each use face shields should be inspected to ensure they provide the required level of protection as intended by the manufacturer. Damaged equipment can lead to a false sense of security!
Employers must also understand that that OSHA requires a number of written elements for all PPE protection programs including eye and face protection. A written program is not only necessary, but will increase the chances of PPE being used correctly. A proper program also requires an individual who is qualified and knowledgeable in eye and face protection to administer all aspects of the program.
And remember, any form of PPE, including face shields, only works if it is used, and used correctly!