How to Comply with Eye & Face Protection Requirements

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: February 22nd, 2012
Topics: PPE |

OSHA eye and face protection requirements are contained in Section 1910.133 of the General Industry regulations. Here’s an overview of the requirements and how to comply with them.

 

OSHA Eye Protective Equipment Requirements

 

The OSHA standard for eye protection requires that all eye protection meet criteria established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard found at Z87.1, 1989 and 2003.

The ANSI Standard sets specifications that manufacturers must comply with regarding the ability of the lens to withstand impact and the need to provide protection to the worker’s temples with side shields that are either integral to the eyewear or attached, among other things. Side shields are required whenever there are risks to a worker from flying objects.

It’s important to be certain that all of the eyewear you select for your workers is stamped with the ANSI Z 87.1 mark, typically on the temple. Most vendors who provide safety eyewear only provide those that meet the ANSI Standard, but if you or your workers buy eyewear from a consumer products store, it may not meet the ANSI Standard.

The OSHA Construction Industry Standard for eye protection is found at 29 CFR 1926.102. It also requires the use of eye protection that meets the criteria found in the ANSI Z87.1 Standard, but it references the original 1968 Standard. However, most eye protection purchased today has been manufactured to the most current ANSI Z87 Standard.

Vendors provide all different types of eye protection, but such equipment can also be bought in large consumer stores. If you allow your workers to buy their own eye protection, ensure that they buy equipment that meets the appropriate current standards. An indication of this is found on the temples of the eyewear.

Selection of Eye and Face Protection

Eye protection comes in different shapes and sizes depending on the hazards presented. Thus, a welder will wear different eye protection (a welder’s helmet) from somebody operating a table saw (standard safety glasses). In between these extremes are goggles to provide a barrier to air-borne particles that might get blown in and behind conventional safety glasses, a full face shield if chemicals or sharp particles would harm the facial skin, and many other options.

The typical hazards to a worker’s eyes include:

  • Dust and other flying particles, such as metal shavings or sawdust;
  • Molten metal that might splash;
  • Acids and other caustic liquid chemicals that might splash;
  • Blood and other potentially infectious body fluids that might splash, spray, or splatter; and
  • Intense light such as that created by welding and lasers.

Each one of these hazards requires a different type of eye protection. These include:

Safety Glasses

Used for moderate impact from particles produced by such jobs as carpentry, woodworking, grinding, and scaling. Most safety glasses today are made with plastic safety frames. Side shields that protect the worker’s eyes from flying objects from the side of their face are either integral to the eyewear or can be purchased so that they detach.

Safety Glasses and Prescription Glasses

Several options exist for worker’s who wear prescription glasses. One is “cover-up” eyewear that’s designed to go over a worker’s glasses and provide the impact resistance of a standard pair of safety glasses. Safety goggles also work. These options have certain drawbacks as workers often complain of having difficulties seeing close-up work through two lenses. If they end up removing their safety eyewear so they can see to perform their work task, this creates an obvious problem. For work areas where safety eyewear is only needed occasionally, this option may be okay, but for work areas where safety eyewear is needed all the time, it may not be the best option.

For workers who only need correction to their vision for close-up tasks and/or reading, safety glasses are also now being made with reading lens built into the bottom section of the lens. These have become a quite popular and if your workers only need assistance with reading, the extra cost of these types of safety glasses can be much better than providing prescription safety glasses.

For workers who need prescription eyewear all or nearly all the time, the best solution might end up being prescription safety glasses, which have the ability to provide protection from workplace hazards (they meet the ANSI Z87.1 and/or CSA Z94.3 Standard.) and also provide the worker with vision correction. Many vendors offer the ability to purchase this type of safety eyewear. A worker will need to provide their prescription to the vendor in order to have them made. Many different styles of frames are available and most prescription safety glasses have detachable side shields so the worker can wear them outside of the workplace.

Prescription safety glasses are one of the exceptions permitted by OSHA with regard to an employer’s need to pay for PPE. Some employers create a program by which they will pay for a pair of prescription safety glasses every two years (or some other time frame) or they may provide an allowance to assist the worker in paying for them. It is important to remember that, if you choose not to provide financial assistance with prescription eyewear and a worker chooses not to purchase them on their own, you must still provide some means of protecting the worker’s eyes through standard safety glasses that cover over their regular prescription glasses as described above.

Safety Goggles

Goggles protect eyes, eye sockets and the facial area immediately surrounding the eyes from impact, dust and splashes. Safety goggles are required in situations where the hazards to the eyes include splashes from liquids such as corrosive substances or metal working fluids. Safety glasses are not an appropriate solution when liquid hazards exist in the workplace. Safety goggles can also be used as a means of covering over a workers regular prescription eyewear, as described above.

Welding Shields/Goggles

This equipment protects eyes from burns caused by infrared or intense radiant light, and protects the face and eyes from flying sparks, metal spatter, and slag chips produced during welding, brazing, soldering, and cutting.

 

If a worker needs welding shields or goggles, you will need to make sure they have ones with the proper shade number. You can use the tables in the two OSHA Standards [For General Industry the Table is found at 29 CFR 1910.133(a)(5) and for Construction Industry the Table is found at 29 CFR  1926.102(a)(5)] or you can check with your vendor.

Laser Safety Goggles

Laser safety goggles protect eyes from intense concentrations of light produced by lasers. If your workplace uses lasers, you need to read the User Manual for your instrument or check with your vendor for details on what to buy.

Face Shields

These protect the face from nuisance dusts and potential splashes or sprays of hazardous liquids. Most face shields are not designed to protect a worker from impact hazards; although some limited models exist. If safety glasses are required, wearing a face shield over them will assist with some nuisance liquid splashes.

Conclusion

Ensure the eye protection chosen fits each worker, that each individual required to use the equipment knows where and when to use it AND that they keep it clean and free of defects that impairs its effectiveness. Dirty, “fogged” or scratched glasses, goggles or shields interfere with vision and adversely affect quality work.  They may also cause the employee to remove them to see better or double-check some work being done.

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