What is a Face Shield?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A face shield is a piece of safety equipment used to protect someone's face from impact with debris, as well as chemicals, body fluids, and other potential hazards. Face shields can be found on equipment ranging from motorcycle helmets to surgical gear. In some settings, they may be required for health and safety, while in others, they are strongly recommended. If a face field is damaged, it should be replaced, as its functionality may be compromised.

Face shields are essential for welders.
Face shields are essential for welders.

In medicine, face shields are often used during procedures like amputations and other potentially messy procedures to protect people working on the patient. If splashback occurs, blood and other fluids will hit the shield and not the eyes and faces of care providers. This limits the chance of contracting blood-borne disease. First responders may also use face shields when providing medical aid in some situations, and they can also be used when providing treatments like dental care, where fine aerosolized debris will be in the air. Masks to cover the mouth and nose can be worn under the shield to prevent inhalation of hazardous materials.

Masks are often worn by medical personnel to prevent the transmission of germs.
Masks are often worn by medical personnel to prevent the transmission of germs.

People working in environments where chemicals, sparks, or particulates might kick back into the face may wear a face shield while working. This includes welders, chemists, and many other professionals. The shield can contain polarized plastic to protect people from flares of light as well, a common concern for people like welders. This type of face shield can be part of a respirator, providing the worker with clean air to breathe and facial protection at the same time. Face shields are often rated for specific applications, and it is important to select an appropriate chemical or heat-resistant product.

Respirator masks can protect workers from harmful gases and chemicals.
Respirator masks can protect workers from harmful gases and chemicals.

Motorcyclists and people involved in some sports like dirt biking may also choose to wear a face shield. The shield can increase comfort, in addition to addressing concerns about injuries caused by debris and particulates. One potential concern for cyclists is the possibility of losing control after debris lands in the eyes, as well as experiencing facial injuries caused by glass, rocks, and other materials in the road that may be thrown up by passing traffic.

A face shield should be regularly cleaned to make sure the visibility is good, and checked for cracks and pitting. Even if defects in the shield don't impair vision, they can be a sign that the shield is compromised, and it may not work as effectively when it is needed; a crack could fail under low stress and expose the wearer to risks. Damaged and defective face shields should be disposed of and replaced with new ones for safety.

Masks are worn in a medical setting to help prevent the spread of disease.
Masks are worn in a medical setting to help prevent the spread of disease.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Reminiscence

I would never think of doing my job without wearing a safety face shield. I used a band saw to carve out wooden tool handles, and sawdust flies everywhere. I can't even see it sometimes, but I know there's really small pieces reaching my face. I tried doing my job without a protective face shield one time, and within ten minutes I had two pieces of wood in my eyes.

Some people can get by with just wearing face masks, but I want full protection of my entire face. Getting hit in the eye with hot solder or wood chips is not fun at all.

Ruggercat68

My dentist has started wearing a face shield for just about every procedure now. He told they weren't a legal requirement for most routine treatments, but he'd rather be safe than sorry. One of his dental practice partners didn't wear a dental face shield and he picked up a really nasty virus from a sick patient.

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