Face shields are necessary for many professions and for various tasks in the workplace or at home. For example, OSHA requires using face shields when workers are exposed to flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gasses or vapors, or potentially hazardous light radiation. Specific jobs requiring face shields include metal workers, some medical staff, industrial painters, and employees in chemical plants. While not all employees and tasks require a face shield, they are often overlooked and should be used more often.
5 Reasons To Use A Face Shield
- Flying debris: Dust, debris, and other fine materials can bypass your safety glasses and fly into your eyes. You should always use a face shield when using chainsaws, angle grinders, or similar power tools.
- Splash hazards: When handling acids, corrosives, chemical adherents or strippers, and/or bodily fluids, wear face shields. Typical safety eyewear doesn’t provide the necessary liquid splash protection for these hazards.
- Extreme heat: When performing furnace maintenance, engaging in welding, or handling any molten substance, you should use a face shield. Some face shields, typically employed in foundries, have special coatings to provide extra protection from extreme temperatures.
- Arc Hazards: Electricians working with high voltage connections need protection from potential arc explosions, which can lead to severe burns and death! Only specially designed face shields should be used. The Elvex ARC-Shield is an example of a face shield designed to protect against arc flash.
- High-velocity impact hazards: Safety glasses do a great job of protecting your eyes. However, they cannot protect your face. Plus, safety glasses may fail if an object with enough mass or velocity hits. Face shields provide extra protection from high-mass and high-velocity impact hazards. That said, wearing safety eyewear underneath your face shield is always recommended.
5 Face Shield Options To Consider
- Side protection on face shields provides increased protection from lateral hazards. It’s a natural instinct to turn your face away from an object flying toward you. However, this may expose your eyes or face to the incoming hazard. So make sure your face shield has adequate side protection, especially if you’re working around liquid splash or radiation hazards.
- Goggle styles such as the Pyramex Capstone Kit or Bolle Atom Shield provide another option for face protection when working in clean rooms, metal processing, foundries, mining, construction, and more. These face shields combine a removable goggle with a face shield. This feature can replace the goggle if it becomes scratched or damaged. Plus, you may find these face shields easier to use in lab environments because the face shield fits closer to your face.
- Headgear – Face shields are typically worn with headgear or mounted to a traditional hard hat. Consider the environment you’ll work in and choose the appropriate headgear system. Most face shield manufacturers provide adapters for mounting their products on hard hats.
- Face shields are available in removable or lift-front designs. Removable face shields allow for easy replacement, while lift-front styles can be lowered and raised quickly as the task requires.
- Face shield material comes in polycarbonate, Lexan, or wire mesh models. Polycarbonate and Lexan protect against impacts and are available in clear or tinted versions. Wire mesh face shields are popular with loggers and provide protection from impacts; plus they don’t fog up. However, wire mesh face shields should not be used for work involving chemical, liquid splash, or fine dust hazards.
Think Safety Glasses AND Face Shield
Face shields do an excellent job of providing extra eye and face protection from various dangers. However, you should always wear safety glasses under your face shield because the bottom and sides of face shields typically have gaps. Liquid or debris passing through these gaps can contact your eyes, potentially causing an injury.
Make sure you take the time to evaluate the dangers in your work area and select the appropriate eye and face protection.
Do you have a question or comment about face shields? Please leave a comment below.
Is there a set distance for observers when someone is using an impact?
I would request clarification on your question, Louis. Do you mean when someone is using a tool that could create an impact hazard? And are you asking if there is a set distance at which an observer should be wearing eye protection in such a case?
For the sake of answering now, we’ll assume both are true. If you are observing where there is any potential safety hazard, you too should always be protected accordingly. There is not a set distance, per se, but it’s easy to assume that, generally speaking, the further away from the action one is, the safer they are. That said, sharp flying debris could do damage at 3 feet, 8 feet and 15 feet given enough velocity. As debris and impact incidents are usually unpredictable, the safe play is to always be covered – literally.
I am planning on doing some metal grinding and lead bullet casting. Would a steel mesh face shield provide sufficient protection for both ?
I would not think so, and I wouldn’t trust it. In the specific case of metal grinding, particles smaller than the mesh holes can be made and shot toward your face. Metal particles in the eyes can be a particularly painful nuisance. I recommend a polycarbonate face shield in addition to appropriate primary eye protection underneath. This will provide both better protection and better visibility. In lieu of this, a sealed and/or dust goggle may be sufficient.
We recently had a worker injured while using a gas powered chop saw. There was a “kick back” and the saw hit the worker on the chin. Luckily the injuries were not life threatening but I’m looking for the proper protection for that job. We frequently use the chop saw for cutting various types of pipe in the field. I’m looking at some type of full face grinding shield that resembles a hockey goalie’s mask. Some direction would be greatly appreciated.
Robert, personally I would suggest a basic polycarbonate face shield. It will provide maximum visibility and protection, is inexpensive, versatile, and easily replaced. A cage-style mask with wire or a mesh-like pattern and material will only provide a saw blade something to hook onto if this should happen again. Such a mask would not provide good visibility or be as easily replaced. No matter what type of shield or mask is used, it should be considered “secondary” protection, with your primary protection being Z87+ glasses worn underneath. This is standard practice.
Uvex makes many face shields but their latest and most popular design the Uvex bionic would protect your employees thoroughly in safety face protection.
Are face shields rated in any way much like safety glasses are with a marking on them or different levels of protection?
Jeff, I can’t speak for all face shields, but the Elvex and Crews brand face shields we offer are rated and stamped Z87+ for protection and compliance.
Can I have our employees wear a mesh face mask while cutting sheet metal studs? Is there a law against the use of wire mesh as opposed to a solid plastic face mask? Our employees feel that the plastic ones get scratched up quickly and fogg easily, both situations making it hard to see.
This is a great question, Jared.
While “wire mesh” type eye & face protection typically meets the ANSI Z87.1-2015 wire screen requirements. Which means they only meet the ANSI Z87.1 high-speed impact requirements. They do not pass high mass (where you drop a 3lb “dart” on them) and they will not meet the ANSI Z87.1 optical requirements.
The following Wire Mesh eye and face protection from Pyramex are some of the best models I’m aware of for this style of eye protection:
Trifecta – http://www.pyramexsafety.com/SB76WMD?search=sb76wmd
S1060 – http://www.pyramexsafety.com/storage/download/S1060_ANSI_PRODUCT_SPEC_SHEET_LoRes.pdf
G9WMG – http://www.pyramexsafety.com/storage/download/G9WMG_ANSI_PRODUCT_SPEC_SHEET_LoRes.pdf
To my knowledge, there is no law against it, but I recommend checking with your states OSHA recommendations as they can vary state to state.
My personal suggestion would be going with an S1060 Face Shield with an anti-fog safety glass worn under the mesh shield. That way you have full protection (twice the impact) and the lenses of your safety glasses won’t get scratched up as quickly. This is probably overkill for OSHA, but it will extend the life of your safety eyewear and provide extra impact protection to boot.
I work outside in all types of weather
What are the safety concerns of wearing a face shield in extreme heat and in the rain?
Thank you for your question, Sean. Typically, the primary safety concern would be visibility. Any time you combine eye protection with high heat and moisture, the risk of lens fogging increases. You would want to invest in face shields with anti-fog coatings or bottles of anti-fog spray to reduce or slow down the onset of lens fogging.
For Laboratory setting, chemicals, if a face shield is ANSI Z 87.1 stamped,… would there be any regulatory requirement to wear safety glasses underneath…. assuming there is NO IMPACT HAZARDS
Thank you for your question, Andrew.
Even without impact hazards, I always recommended wearing protective eyewear underneath a face shield. In fact, most face shield brands recommend wearing safety glasses or goggles when using a face shield. The requirement to wear safety eyewear while using a face shield will be controlled by your facility’s safety coordinator and their safety procedures.