PPE Fundamentals No. 3: A closer look at eye and face protection


Every day, there are roughly 2,000 job-related eye injuries in the U.S. that require medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that eye injuries cost the nation’s employers roughly $300 million annually.  Many of these injuries happen to employees wearing ill-fitting eye protection or no protection at all, and most are caused by tiny objects such as wood or cement chips, dust, nails, staples, and slivers of metal.

This month, we take a look at safeguarding the eyes and face. OSHA requirements for eye and face protection can be found in CFR 1910.133. 

When is eye and face protection needed? 

A Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey of workers who suffered eye injuries found that about three out of five injured were not wearing eye protection, and most of these workers said they didn’t think eye protection was necessary.  Supervisors and employees must conduct job safety analyses for the work they oversee and perform, to determine if there is a need for eye and/or face protection, while keeping in mind the tendency to underestimate this need.  If any of the hazards below are present during a particular job or task, eye and face shielding is required:

-Dust, dirt, metal, grass clippings or wood chips flying into the eye due to the use of a grinder, chipper, saw, hammer, or the presence of strong winds.

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-Corrosive substances, hot liquids, and solvents.

-Suspended objects that could swing near the eye, such as tree branches, chains, ropes or tools.

-Rays from lasers and other radiant light, and radiant energy from welding.

Furthermore, OSHA and the CDC have identified certain jobs for which eye protection should strongly be considered.  These include:



-machinists, or anyone who repairs or maintains machinery





-plumbers and pipefitters

-jobs requiring sanding or working with sheet metal; and

-health care, laboratory, and janitorial staff, as well as animal handlers, and any other positions at risk from infections due to ocular exposure.

Eye/Face Protection Requirement Checklist

In addition to safeguarding against your task-specific workplace hazards, ask the following questions of your eyewear PPE:

1.  Does it fit snugly and comfortably?

2.  Does it allow for unrestricted vision, range of motion, and function of other PPE?

3.  Is it durable and easily cleaned?  Note: Eyewear that is shared among employees must be disinfected after each use.

4.  Does it meet OSHA’s ANSI Z87.1-1989 standards? Is the manufacturer’s name clearly shown on the frame or lens?

For further reading, check out the CDC’s Eye Safety Checklist.

What about prescription lenses wearers?

Employees who wear corrective lenses must either wear protective eyewear that incorporates their prescription into the design, or PPE that fits over their glasses and does not disturb the position of the prescription lenses, so as not to disrupt the employee’s vision.

Types of Eye and face protection:

Safety glasses provide minimal protection from minor dust, chips or flying debris.

Goggles offer higher impact protection, as they fit tightly around the eyes, also guarding some facial areas.  Many styles can fit around prescriptive eyewear.

-Face shields are worn in tandem with goggles or glasses, and provide the highest impact protection.  

Specialty protection is needed for jobs involving lasers or welding.  Styles include full face respirators, filtered helmets and goggles.

For specifics on selecting the correct eye and face protection, please see OSHA’s guide.