According to OSHA, eye and face protection is protective equipment such as glasses, goggles, face shields or welding shields that are designed to protect the wearer against a variety of hazards.

OSHA’s eye and face protection standard (29CFR 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, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.

OSHA warning: Do not rely on personal protective equipment devices alone to provide protection against hazards. Use personal protective equipment in conjunction with guards, engineering controls, and sound manufacturing practices.

As always, my opinion is that personal protective equipment is the last option to use and is the least desirable because of the human factor involved. Somebody has to use the equipment and use it correctly every single time. However, PPE may be part of your safety program when needed.

Hazards that may require face and eye protection include:

Impact Injuries

Impact injuries are typically a result of flying or falling objects, sometimes sparks in the eye. They tend to be small, but they can be extremely hazardous. Work environments include operations such as chipping, grinding, riveting and sanding.

If you are exposed to flying objects, fragments and particles, primary protective devices that must be worn are safety glasses with side shields or goggles. Secondary protective devices (i.e., face shields) may be required in addition to these devices.

Other types of protectors might include:

  • Goggles with direct or indirect ventilation
  • Welding helmet worn over safety glasses or goggles
  • Full faceplate respirator

Heat Injuries

Heat injuries are typically caused by exposure to high temperatures, splashes of molten metal or hot sparks. This involves workplace operations where working with heat hazards may result in burns to the eye or face, activities such as pouring, casting, hot dipping, and furnace operations.

Eye protection such as goggles or safety glasses with special purpose lenses and side shields are required when working with heat hazards. Face shields may be required in addition to safety glasses and goggles. Be sure to consider the source and intensive of the heat and the type of splashes that may occur when selecting this PPE.

Other types of protectors might include:

  • Goggles with direct or indirect ventilation
  • Full facepiece respirators
  • Loose-fitting respirator worn over safety glasses or goggles
  • Screen or reflective face shield worn over safety glasses or goggles

Chemical Injuries

According to OSHA, a large percentage of eye injuries are caused by direct contact with chemicals, often a result of a poor choice of personal protective equipment. Chemicals can cause serious, sometimes permanent, damage to the eyes from splashes, mists, vapors or fumes.

Goggles can protect your eyes from hazardous substances, but they must be fitted and worn correctly. A face shield may be required in areas where you are exposed to severe chemical hazards.

Other types of protectors might include:

  • Eyecup Safety Goggles or Cover Safety Goggles
  • Loose-fitting respirator work over safety glasses or goggles
  • Full facepiece respirators

Dust Injuries

Dust is another hazard that can cause eye injuries and is often present when there are operations such as woodworking and buffing.

Eyecup or cover-type safety goggles should be worn when dust is a hazard you have to deal with. Safety goggles are the only type of effective eye protection from nuisance dust as they create a protective seal around the eyes.

Other types of protectors might include:

  • Full facepiece respirators

Optical Radiation Injuries

Laser work creates intense concentrations of heat, ultraviolet, infrared and reflected light radiation. Unprotected laser exposure may result in eye injuries including retinal burns, cataracts and permanent blindness. When lasers produce invisible ultraviolet or other radiation both employees and visitors should use appropriate eye protection at all times.

Other types of protectors might include:

  • Welding helmet over safety glasses or goggles
  • Loose-fitting respirator worn over safety glasses or goggles
  • Full facepiece respirators
  • Hand shield over safety glasses or goggles

Resources for You

You can use OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection eTool to help you determine what criteria your personal protective equipment needs to meet.

OSHA Standards that apply when selecting proper eye and face protection for the workplace.
29 CFR 1910.132, General requirements
29 CFR 1910.133, General Industry
29 CFR 1915.153, Maritime
29 CFR 1926.102, Construction

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