Face Shield

By Tabitha Mishra
Last updated: May 17, 2024

What Does Face Shield Mean?

A face shield is a type of personal protective equipment (PPE) designed to protect the wearer from specific hazards that may affect the face. Depending on the type used, a face shield may protect its wearer from a physical hazard, energy or radiation, chemical splashes, or biological hazards.

A typical face shield consists of a headband that holds the shield onto the wearer’s head, as well as a flat or curved barrier (the shield) that prevents hazards from reaching the wearer. In many cases, the shield is connected to the headband by means of a hinge that enables the wearer to lift the shield away from the face without having to take it off their head.

Safeopedia Explains Face Shield

Face shields are a standard piece of personal protective equipment for welders, who use them as a means of protection from radiant energy (heat and light). The use of a face shield is a necessary and legally required piece of protection for welders. Without one, the light and heat emitted from many welding activities can very quickly damage a welder’s eyes or skin.

Depending on the face shield’s purpose, the entire shield component may be made of a single transparent material (such as transparent plastic) or may consist of both a transparent eyepiece and a non-transparent piece that protects the remainder of the face. The non-transparent piece may offer superior protection, or simply be less costly than the transparent portion.

After the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the use of face shields as a form of protection against biohazards became more common.

Workplace Hazards Requiring Face Shields

Common workplace hazards that require the use of a face shield include:

  • Flying debris, such as dust created by chain saws
  • Splash hazards, such as chemical splashes
  • Extreme heat, as is encountered in welding and furnace maintenance
  • Arc hazards, which are potentially encountered by electrical workers
  • High-velocity impact hazards, which are often created when equipment malfunctions and causes a piece of the equipment to go flying at high velocity

Regulations Covering Face Shields

In the United States, OSHA requires the use of eye protection or face shields in any workplace setting that exposes the worker 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 standard 1910.133). Numerous OSHA standards across multiple industries contain this requirement.

Many jurisdictions categorize face shields as one of several types of protective eyewear. For example, in Canada, protective eyewear is categorized according to six classes. Class 6 eyewear refers exclusively to face shields, which are considered appropriate for all contexts except those that require large reductions of optical radiation or protection from laser radiation.

Class 6 eye protection comes in three variants (page 11-3):

  • Class 6A provides impact, piercing, splash, head, and glare protection
  • Class 6B provides radiation protection
  • Class 6C provides high-heat protection

Face Shields and COVID-19

In the context of biological protection and COVID-19 protection in particular, face shields are commonly used in hospitals and other settings that expose workers to a high enough risk of exposure that the use of a respirator (e.g., an N95 mask) by itself does not offer sufficient protection against the contagion.

In these settings, the primary goal of the face shield is to prevent the virus from settling on the skin or potentially entering the body through the eyes.

Face shields by themselves do not offer sufficient protection against COVID-19 and are generally worn over a facemask. They may also be worn over goggles.

The use of a face shield is also recommended in situations in which workers cannot maintain an adequate separation from other persons. For example, customs agents and other high-contact transportation workers often use face shields as a means of biohazard protection.


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