Head and face protection comes in a variety of choices, from headgear and faceshields to full brim hard hats. Which one you'll need depends largely on your application.

To help you figure out which option is best for you, here's a breakdown of both categories and the protection they provide.

Faceshield Protection

Faceshields consist of two components: a protective visor and the headgear that holds it in place. It is a great choice when you need to protect the face from chemicals, high temperatures, molten metal, and other hazards.

There are two ways to secure the visor to your head – adjustable headgear and hard hat visor carriers. Adjustable headgear covers the front of the head and includes straps to allow the user to manipulate the size of the headgear to ensure a proper fit.

Visor carriers, on the other hand, allow you to wear a faceshield in conjunction with a hard hat that has built-in accessory slots. This is not only convenient but assures optimal protection. Please note that the visor carrier must be compatible with the brand of hard hat you’re wearing, unless it’s marked for Universal Fit.

While faceshields can be a crucial part of your PPE, protecting your face shouldn't stop there. Faceshields are considered secondary protection, meaning hat ANSI-approved safety glasses or goggles must be worn as primary protection in order to be in compliance. Using a faceshield alone doesn’t comply – both must be worn.

Hard Hat Protection

Now that your face and eyes are protected, it’s time to focus on your head.

According to OSHA, head protection must meet five basic criteria to be effective. It must:

  • Absorb the shock of a falling object
  • Prevent an object from penetrating it
  • Resist water
  • Burn slowly
  • Fit properly.

The most common choice for meeting these criteria is a hard hat.

OSHA’s head protection standard requires employees to wear protective helmets in areas where there is a risk of impact to, or penetration of, the head. This includes:

  • Below co-workers using tools or materials that can fall (learn more in A Stark Reminder of the Importance of Tool Tethering)
  • Around or under conveyor belts or other machinery that may cause objects to dislodge and fall
  • Near objects being carried or swung
  • In situations where they may bump their heads, such as when working near exposed pipes or beams

If employees are working near exposed electrical conductors that may contact the head, they must wear a protective hard hat designed to reduce the risk of electrical shock.

Hard Hat Classifications

Hard hats are available with varying levels of protection. It’s important to choose the hard hat that meets your needs.

  • Type I – the most common type of head protection. Protects the top of the head from impact
  • Type II – protects the top and sides of the head from impact
  • Class E – should be worn by employees working near electrical hazards. Class E hard hats have been tested to 20,000 volts
  • Class G – provides minimum protection against electrical hazards. These hard hats have only been tested to 2,200 volts
  • Class C – classified as conductive. This class of hard hats should not be worn when working with or near electricity

Daily Inspection and Use

Hard hats must be inspected daily or before each use. Employees must replace a headband that’s stretched or worn. The entire hard hat must be replaced if the shell is cracked, broken, or punctured. If the hard hat has taken a heavy blow, it must be replaced, even if it doesn’t show any damage.

Hard hats should be replaced after five years of use when they’re worn in environments that have sunlight, chemicals, or temperature extremes. Suspensions should be replaced after one year of use.

Tips for Extending the Life of Your Hard Hat

  • Avoid scraping or banging hard hats
  • Don’t throw them around
  • Clean hard hats at least once a month: dip hard hats in hot soapy water, then scrub, rinse, and dry
  • Take out the removable sweatband and wash it periodically
  • Store hard hats in a cool place
  • Avoid leaving the hard hat in the sun (sunlight will deteriorate the hard hat)

Conclusion

Head and face protection is crucial to keeping you and your workers safe and productive. Choosing the right hard hat, faceshield, and visor for your job is the first step in working and staying safe (for advice on selecting head protection for women, see Selecting the Right PPE for Women: Head, Eye, and Ear Protection).