When it comes to staying safe in the workplace, there is nothing more important than proper face protection. The human face is quite vulnerable to a wide range of threats, and the results of an injury can be absolutely devastating. Some injuries that wouldn’t be an issue if they happened on other parts of the body, are extremely dangerous on or near the face, which is why having the right personal protective equipment (PPE) for the face is essential.
Types of Hazards
Depending on the type of work environment you’re in, there are many risks and threats to people’s faces. Identifying what specific hazards exist is a necessary first step when deciding what type of PPE to provide for the facility. The following are some general concepts that can help facility managers identify what specific risks exist in their area.
- Physical Damage – While the entire body is susceptible to physical damage, the face is much more fragile. Getting hit in the leg by an object may hurt, but if that same object hit someone’s face it can cause a lot more damage. With this in mind, look for what types of things in a facility may cause physical damage to the face, and how the risk can be reduced.
- Gasses & Fumes – Since all air intake goes through the mouth and nose (which are on the face) it is important to watch out for gasses and fumes that could cause health risks. Some gases also cause eye irritation or damage, which is another significant risk. Protecting the face from these hazards is very important.
- Dust & Small Particles – Dust and other small bits of debris are no threat at all to most parts of the body, but if they are inhaled or get into the eyes, they can be a major problem. Even if they don’t directly damage the face, they can lead to other accidents. If, for example, dust is blown into someone’s eyes, they can be temporarily blinded or disoriented, from which they can get injured.
- Heat – Another threat to the face that many people overlook is heat. The body can often take quite high temperatures for a time, but the face is at much more risk. Even brief exposure to high temperatures can quickly cause problems to sensitive eyes or lips.
- Bright Lights – When doing things like welding, it is important to protect the eyes from the extremely bright light of the welding torch.
Of course, there are many other types of risks to the face in the workplace. Taking the time to figure out what potential risks exist is necessary when looking to improve overall workplace safety.
Choosing PPE for Face Protection
According to OSHA’s Eye and Face Protection 1910.133 standard:
The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses appropriate eye or face protection when exposed to eye or face hazards from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation.
-OSHA – Eye and Face Protection
Once you’ve identified the specific face risks in the facility, it is time to choose what types of personal protection equipment is best for keeping everyone safe. There are many different options available to choose from, and finding the right balance between protection, comfort and budget can be difficult.
Protection is obviously the most important consideration; however, if people won’t wear the PPE because it is uncomfortable, it won’t do any good. Working with employees in the facility to determine which specific protective equipment is best is a great way to ensure everyone is as safe as possible.
The following are some of the most popular types of face protection gear available today. Based on your specific situation, choose which ones would work the best. Of course, within each type there are many different brands and styles to choose from, which makes it easier to find the ideal solution for your facility.
- Protective Glasses – Safety glasses are one of the most common types of PPE in the workplace today. Protective glasses will typically shield the eyes from debris. You can get glasses that also wrap around the sides for added protection. These protective glasses can be made from a variety of different materials, depending on the environment they will be used in.
- Welding Masks – For situations where employees are working with high heat or bright lights, welding masks might be the right choice. Of course, these masks can’t be used for things other than welding in most cases, so they are limited in that way.
- Full Face Masks – Masks that cover the entire face, and often down to the neck as well are very popular. These often come attached to a hard hat of some sort, with a transparent shield going over and around the face and neck. This is excellent for areas where there is significant debris or other physical risks to the face.
- Gas Masks – When working in areas where toxic gasses or fumes may be present, having a safe air supply is essential. Gas masks can cover just the mouth and nose, or the entire head for better protection. Which one is right will depend on the types of gasses, fumes or other chemicals the employees are working with.
While face protection is one of the most important aspects of workplace safety, it is also relatively simple compared to some other aspects. Once you are able to identify the specific risks that exist in a given facility, it is only a matter of finding the right personal protection equipment that will work for your employees. There are dozens of different options to choose from, so take the time to find the perfect way to protect the faces of your employees.
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