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How to Choose the Proper Face Protection

Face shields for jobs where heat and radiation are involved should offer ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation protection to prevent burns. © Mantis Design – stock.adobe.com

By: Rick Pedley, Contributor

Handling materials in the workplace can leave a person’s eyes and face vulnerable to a variety of hazards. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers must ensure that all affected workers wear adequate face protection when exposed to flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gasses or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation. This type of personal protective equipment (PPE) includes side face protection, detachable visors and face shields.

The PPE must also be made to accommodate those who use prescription eyewear. They should have the eye protection feature prescription lenses or at least be able to wear it over prescription eyewear without interfering with the job. There are specialty face shields that protect against hazards like arc flash, welding, heat and radiation.

Employers have no shortage of options when choosing face protection for their workers. It’s important to understand how the face shield is designed for the particular task at hand and the protection that is required. Face shield visor materials also matter. They are most commonly made from acetate, polycarbonate, propionate and polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG).

Face protection should be comfortable to wear without limiting the worker’s range of movement. © Burin – stock.adobe.com

Acetate offers the best clarity and scratch resistance. It can also offer protection against impacts and chemical splashes. Polycarbonate provides the best heat and impact resistance as well as protection against chemical splashes. It also stands up well to extremely cold environments. Propionate has better impact protection than acetate. It can provide protection against chemical splash and typically costs less than the previous two materials. PETG can protect against chemical splashes and impacts. It is typically the most affordable option.

Certain jobs will require specialty face shields depending on the hazards present. When working with electricity or potential arc flash dangers, under the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E standard, face shields must provide protection based on an Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV).

For jobs where heat and radiation are involved, the face shields should offer ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation protection to prevent burns. Typically, they have special coatings and are made of polycarbonate.

Cutting, welding and grinding can release harmful particulate matter into the air. In this case, the face shield must be durable enough with scratch resistant properties in order to withstand the hazards that come with these tasks.

Those working with potentially hazardous chemicals and liquids can wear a polycarbonate face shield to protect their face from coming into contact with these substances. It’s important to select face shields that protect against these specific chemicals as others may be made of materials that might dangerously interact with specific chemicals.

Workers should use a face shield with UV protective coatings when working outside. An anti-fog coating will also improve visibility when the temperature outside is significantly colder than the air the person breathes.

OSHA REQUIREMENTS FOR FACE PROTECTION

OSHA covers requirements for face protection in 1910.133(a), General requirements.

Provisions of the standard include:

1910.133(a)(1) – The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

1910.133(a)(2) – The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses eye protection that provides side protection when there is a hazard from flying objects. Detachable side protectors (e.g. clip-on or slide-on side shields) meeting the pertinent requirements of this section are acceptable.

1910.133(a)(3) – The employer shall ensure that each affected employee who wears prescription lenses while engaged in operations that involve eye hazards wears eye protection that incorporates the prescription in its design, or wears eye protection that can be worn over the prescription lenses without disturbing the proper position of the prescription lenses or the protective lenses.

1910.133(a)(4) – Eye and face PPE shall be distinctly marked to facilitate identification of the manufacturer.

1910.133(a)(5) – The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation.

To view the complete standard, go to: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.133

For medical settings where sanitation is critical, face shields can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. © boyloso – stock.adobe.com

For medical settings where sanitation is critical, disposable face shields can help prevent the spread of infectious diseases. They protect against respiratory droplets and splashes that can lead to illnesses. For instances where a reusable face shield is acceptable, it should be cleaned regularly to prevent the spread of contamination and to allow the worker to continue to see clearly through it.

It’s also important to select face shields based on how they interact with other required PPE. For example, some face shields can be attached to hard hats for adequate head and face protection. If workers are near hazardous gases, the face protection should be completely sealed to make sure the gases cannot slip through the cracks. The item may need to be worn with a respiratory or breathing mask that can supply oxygen.

Regardless of the task, the face protection should be comfortable to wear without limiting the worker’s range of movement. Some facial PPE often come with adjustable configurations or straps for a perfect fit. If applicable, vented options are also available to allow for better air flow and to keep workers cool.

Every job is different, so employers shouldn’t use a one-size-fits-all approach when selecting facial protection for their teams. Workers may need to use different types of equipment depending on the hazards in place. Choosing versatile equipment that will protect workers in multiple situations is best. Some pairs of goggles even come with detachable splash protectors that can be worn in particular cases. Each item should be chosen based on the specific task and the worker’s needs. WMHS

Rick Pedley, PK Safety’s President and CEO, joined the family business in 1979. PK Safety, a supplier of occupational safety and personal protective equipment, has been operating since 1947 and takes OSHA, ANSI, PPE and CSA work safety equipment seriously (pksafety.com).

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