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Face Shield Protection

Quick Tips #373

Face shield protection is an important part of personal protective equipment (PPE). OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.133 gives the requirements for employers to follow on the appropriate use and selection of face shields and protective eyewear. OSHA relies on ANSI to provide manufacturing standards for face shields as well as other eye and facial protective equipment. The manufacturing standard is ANSI Z87.1 and is titled, "American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection." The ANSI manufacturing standards for face shields includes testing for impact and optical clarity. Face shields are primarily designed to protect the face from flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemical splash, bodily fluids and potentially injurious light radiation.

The most current ANSI standard for eye and face protection is ANSI Z87.1 - 2010. Changes for the 2010 revision include the following:

  • More emphasis on specific hazard as opposed to protector type
  • Impact standards were changed from "basic impact" and "high impact" (2003 standard) to "non-impact" and "impact" (2010 standard)
  • Greater side to side and top to bottom coverage
  • New testing for splash, dust and fine dust

The ANSI 2003 standard states that face shields are considered secondary eye protection and must be used in conjunction with safety glasses or goggles. The 2010 standard does not distinguish between primary and secondary eye protection. Most manufacturers of face shields suggest using safety glasses or goggles underneath face shields for additional eye protection.

OSHA recognizes the revised 2010 standard. OSHA also recognizes the 2003 and 1989 (R1998) ANSI standards for eye and face protection. By recognizing the 2003 and 1989 standards, employers are allowed to continue to use eye and face shield protection products meeting the 2010, 2003 or 1989 (R1998) standards.

Face Shield Visor Materials

Face shield visors are constructed from several types of materials. These materials include polycarbonate, propionate, acetate, and PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol). It is important to select the proper visor for the work environment.

Polycarbonate - Polycarbonate material provides the best impact resistance and heat resistance of all visor materials. Specialty polycarbonate visors are also used for arc flash protection and high heat and radiation protection. Polycarbonate also provides chemical splash protection and holds up well in extremely cold temperatures. Polycarbonate is generally more expensive than other visor materials.

Acetate - Acetate provides the best clarity of all the visor materials and tends to be more scratch resistant. It also offers chemical splash and may be rated impact protection.

Propionate – Propionate material provides better impact protection than acetate while also offering chemical splash protection. Propionate material tends to be a lower price point than both acetate and polycarbonate.

PETG - PETG offers chemical splash protection and may provide impact protection. PETG tends to be the most economical option for face shield choices.

ANSI does not provide a standard that applies to chemical splash protection or chemical resistance. The manufacturer of the face shield is the best source for information on chemical resistance testing.

Some face shield visors come in steel or nylon mesh material. Mesh visors provide good airflow for worker comfort and are typically used in the logging and landscaping industry to protect the face from flying debris when cutting wood or shrubbery.

Specialty Face Shield Protection

Specialty face shields for arc flash, heat, radiation, and welding protection are available as well. Specialty shields such as these may need to meet specific requirements and it is generally best to contact a safety supply provider such as Grainger technical support to determine what protective shield will be most appropriate for your application or need.

Arc Flash - These face shields are used for protection against an arc flash. The requirements for arc flash protection are provided by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in the NFPA's 70E standard. Face shields are included in this standard and must provide protection based on Arc Thermal Performance Value (ATPV) which is measured in calories per square centimeter (cal/cm2). The calorie rating will need to be determined first in order to be able to select the shield that will provide the best protection. In determining the level of protection needed for your job or task, some methods available to you are; referring to the NFPA 70E-2012 Article 130 tables 130.4 ( C )(a) or (b), 130.7 ( C )(15)(a) and 130.7 ( C ) (16) or Annex D. Another option is to use an industry accepted software program or use a consulting firm to complete the risk assessment.

Heat and Radiation - There are face shields that will provide protection against heat and radiation. These face shields prevent burns by filtering out intense ultraviolet and infrared radiation. They are made from polycarbonate with special coatings. An example of this would be adding a thin layer of gold film to increase reflectivity.

Welding - Shaded welding face shields provide protection from UV and Infra-red radiation generated when working with molten metal. The shades usually range from Shade 2 – 14 with Shade 14 being the darkest shade. Refer to Quick Tips #109: Welding Safety for more information and proper selection of welding face shields.

When selecting a face shield or any other PPE, OSHA suggests conducting a worksite hazard assessment. OSHA provides guidelines in 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I Appendix B on how to evaluate worksite hazards and select the proper PPE. After selecting the proper PPE, employers should provide training to workers on the correct use and maintenance of their PPE. Proper hazard assessment, PPE selection and training can significantly reduce worker injuries and ensure a safe work environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.   What is the best face shield visor for a specified chemical?
A.   OSHA suggests that PPE such as face shield protection should be used as a last resort and an engineering solution is preferable when working with injurious chemicals. Engineering solution examples include using a chemical splash guard or a fume hood. A chemical splash guard or a fume hood will stop injurious chemicals from ever reaching the face. If an engineering solution is not practical, a face shield visors will offer limited chemical splash protection. The manufacturer of the face shield is the best source for chemical resistance data. If, for example, a face shield is needed for hydrochloric acid splash protection, contact the manufacturer of the face shield to inquire about its resistance to this chemical.
Q.   Can I use an inexpensive face shield for impact protection?
A.   The revised ANSI Z87.1 – 2010 categorizes face shields as either impact or non-impact. All ANSI Z87.1 rated face shields with a "+" symbol stamped on the face shield (meaning impact rated) provide impact protection regardless of price. Manufacturer testing of visor materials indicate that polycarbonate offers the best impact protection and PETG the least amount of protection from impact force. This said, visors made from both polycarbonate and PETG may meet the ANSI testing standards for impact, even though polycarbonate is generally most expensive visor material. OSHA states that the employer must provide PPE to workers that give sufficient protection from the hazard. Polycarbonate would be a better choice if the hazard requires a higher impact protection than PETG.


(Rev. 1/2012)

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Please Note:
The content in this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only. This publication is not a substitute for review of the applicable government regulations and standards, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific compliance questions should refer to the cited regulation or consult with an attorney.

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