Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Face Up to Proper Protection

Magazine article Occupational Hazards

Face Up to Proper Protection

Article excerpt

Make sure workers know how to shield their faces from specific hazards.

It started as a typical work day for Dan Francis. As a caster at Doe Run Co.'s Resource Recycling Division in Boss, Mo., Francis was casting molten lead into 1-ton molds, just like he'd done many times before. But when he put the pouring spout into the mold and opened a valve, 900-degree molten lead hit the side of the mold and splashed toward his face.

The searing liquid hit Francis directly on his face shield. Some of the lead went under the shield, hitting his safety glasses and respirator.

What could have been a disaster on Oct. 10, 1996, resulted in only minor first-degree burns between his eyebrows and on the bridge of his nose. Francis, whose eyelashes were matted together and could not see at first, was kept from further harm because he was wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including a face shield, required for the job.

The moral of this real-life story: If a work environment calls for protecting the face, start with safety glasses or goggles, then add protection as needed. Because Francis followed that advice, he was awarded the Prevent Blindness America's 1998 Wise Owl Award, which recognizes an individual whose sight was saved by wearing protective eyewear in a serious accident.

"I didn't even have time to think," Francis, now 26 years old, said upon receiving the award. "I know right now I'd probably be blind and have permanent scars on my face if Doe Run hadn't required a face shield on this particular job."

Not all employers, though, have an adequate face protection policy or ensure that their employees adhere to it. Workers injured in the face who were surveyed in a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) study indicated that face protection was not normally used in their line of work, or it was not required for the type of work performed at the time of the accident.

Doing a hazard assessment and establishing a policy are prerequisites to providing adequate face protection as part of a worker's PPE, said Tod Turriff, vice president of program and information services for Prevent Blindness America. The policy should be one that meets or exceeds federal regulations and one that employees will accept, he added.

The American National Standard Institute's (ANSI) Z87.1-1989 standard for eye and face protection establishes criteria used by OSHA in its standard, 29 CFR 1910.133. ANSI Z87.1 states that face shields must only be worn over eye protection.

Basic eye protection for anyone who walks into, or works in, a hazardous area includes safety glasses with side shields, said Turriff, chairman of the ANSI Z87.1 committee. "Most people think that the only time they are exposed to a hazard is when they're working on something, and that's not the case," he said. "It's any time they're exposed to a hazard in a particular work area."

Suitable face protectors must be provided where there is a potential for injury to the face from flying particles, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, potentially injurious light radiation or a combination of these.

Selection

For starters, every face protector should be distinctly marked to identify the manufacturer and that it meets ANSI Z87.1 specifications. Then, it's a matter of selecting the proper protector for the situation.

Face hazards in the workplace come from physical, electromagnetic spectrum or biological elements, said Dr. Bernard Blais, an occupational ophthalmologist in Clifton Park, N.Y. Physical hazards include impact, heat, chemicals and dust. Electromagnetic spectrum hazards, found in welding-type applications, are visible light, ultraviolet radiation and infrared radiation. Biological hazards involve spattering of bodily fluids, typically in the health care field.

Each face protector is designed for one or more of the three classes of hazards. …

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