Choosing Eye and Face Protection

iStock_000016123537_LargeThere is a wide range of eye and face protection available and it can sometimes be difficult to understand which type is the most appropriate for your needs.

Eye and face protection falls under the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations. When deciding what personal protective equipment (PPE) to use, employers must make an assessment to decide whether the PPE will be suitable. This includes deciding on the risks to be combated, the working conditions and the part(s) of the body to be protected.

The type of PPE selected will depend mainly on the hazards to which the wearer is exposed. Selection must be based on the protection required and compatibility with the work being done and its risks.

What Type of Protection is Needed?

The main types are as follows:

  • Safety glasses or spectacles provide protection against impact from small objects. Different levels of impact resistance are available. They are similar to prescription glasses, however they have side shields that provide lateral protection. They are suitable for general working conditions where there may be minor dust, chips or flying particles. They provide little or no protection against liquids or vapours.
  • Eye shields are similar to safety glasses, however they have a single frameless one-piece lens. These provide a similar level of protection to safety glasses. Some eye shields can be worn over prescription glasses.
  • Safety goggles provide protection for the eyes from all angles as they provide a seal around the entire area of the eyes. They are used when the eyes need to be completely covered but the rest of the face does not need to be protected. Different types of goggles are available to provide protection from liquids, dusts, gases, vapours, molten metal and high impact levels. There are different designs to help prevent problems with fogging, however they need to be chosen carefully to ensure they are suitable for the work. Goggles can also be obtained with a range of filters to provide protection against lasers and welding.
  • Face shields protect the face but do not fully enclose the eyes. They can provide protection against impact, spraying, chipping, grinding or chemical splashes. They are frequently used in conjunction with eye protection, as they are not by themselves protective eyewear. They can include welding filters or reflective metal screens that deflect heat.

For protection against light and other non-ionising radiation (e.g. lasers, UV and welding flashes), it is important that the correct type of filter is selected.

Selecting Suitable Eye/Face Protection

The selection of suitable eye protection depends primarily on the hazard, but comfort and durability should also be considered. Employees should be consulted and involved in the selection process.

Safety glasses are available in a variety of styles, weights and sizes. Most manufacturers offer a range of prescription safety spectacles which are individually matched to the wearer.

Eye shields can be useful for visitors and other people who need eye protection only for short periods as some styles can be worn over prescription glasses.

Goggles are heavier and less comfortable than glasses, however they provide much better protection. They are more prone to misting and should be treated with anti-mist coatings.

Face shields are the heaviest and bulkiest form of protection. However, they should be comfortable if they are fitted with an adjustable head harness.

Eye and Face Protection: Storage and Maintenance

All eye protectors need to be properly cared for and stored.

Personal issue eyewear should be stored in a suitable spectacle case or eyewear container when not in use. Those for visitors should also be suitably stored, e.g. in a purpose made “store-and-issue” wall mounted container.

The lenses of eye protectors must be kept clean; dirty lenses can restrict vision and cause eye fatigue, which can lead to accidents. If eye shields or other eye protection for visitors are provided, they should be thoroughly cleaned before they are reissued.

Suppliers of eye protection will be able to advise on the best ways to clean the lenses of safety eyewear.

Transparent visors and faceshields should be changed if they are scratched or cracked, warped, or have become discoloured or brittle with age.

Headbands should be replaced when they are damaged or worn out.


Disclaimer: The information provided through Legislation Watch is for general guidance only and is not legal advice. Legislation Watch is not a substitute for Health and Safety consultancy. You should seek independent advice about any legal matter.

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