COVID-19 Protective Eyewear Guidance for Educational Settings

Always perform a risk assessment prior to your client interaction to determine personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements.

  • Protective eyewear is required any time a physical distance of 2 metres can not be maintained.
  • Protective eyewear must be donned before interaction with students or other staff.

Protective Eyewear Options and Considerations

1. Goggles
       

  • Goggles with a snug fit around the eyes provide the reliable eye protection from splashes, sprays, and respiratory droplets.
  • The characteristics of the goggles that make them the most reliable protection for the wearer also result in concerns with comfort during extended periods of use.

2. Face Shield
       

  • Face shields are preferred as they cover the maximum area of the face to reduce exposure from splash, spray or droplets to both the eyes and face.
  • A single-use face shield can be re-used by the SAME user until it becomes cracked or visibility is compromised. Label your face shield.

3. Safety Glasses
       

  • Safety glasses do not provide the same level of protection from splashes, sprays, and droplets as goggles or face shields, and generally should not be used for infection control purposes. They are not recommended for close clinical contact, especially if the client is unmasked.
  • If you use them, be aware that there will be gaps close to your eyes between the glasses and your face.

*If you wear prescription glasses, use a face shield or goggles that fit snuggly, with no gaps between the protective equipment and your face.

Additional Considerations

  • The most protective PPE for teachers remains full goggles or a face shield as eye protection, worn with a medical or procedural mask. Where ideal PPE is not possible or tolerated, other forms of eye protection (e.g., safety glasses, shield which leaves a gap between the forehead and visor) likely do provide some protection compared to wearing no eye protection.
  • When less than ideal PPE has been worn during potential exposure to COVID-19, the use of other forms of PPE are considered as part of the overall risk assessment but do not automatically equate to a low-risk exposure. Public health staff will take into consideration all available details of the exposure of concern in making an assessment and formulating recommendations and requirements.
  • The EOHU can provide guidance with respect to safer and less safe options but cannot “approve” PPE used by school staff. The occupational health and safety (OH&S) requirements for safety equipment for teachers are set by the Province. Obligations of employers/supervisors can be found on the Ministry of Education’s website.
  • Boards of Education are required to provide teachers with medical grade masks and eye protection.
  • To authorize staff safety equipment that makes sense for the workplace and complies with provincial requirements, consultations with each school board’s OH&S designate is recommended. OH&S staff may also be able to provide guidance on a full range of safety equipment options, including fog-resistant and break-resistant face shields or goggles.

Additional Guidance for the Use of Protective Eyewear

  • Ensure eye protection and respirator or medical mask compatibility so that there is no interference with the proper positioning of the eye protection or with the fit or seal of the respirator or mask.
  • Remove eye protection after the client has left, unless implementing extended use.
  • Use of eye protection can be extended. Eye protection should be cleaned, prior to changing medical mask or N95 respirator, when going to breaks or meals, and at end of shift. As needed, replace it when soiled or damaged.
  • The back of the selected eye protection should be made of a material that can be cleaned and disinfected (not cloth).
  • All eye protection must be cleaned and disinfected with disinfectant approved by Health Canada between uses – see below.

Cleaning Protective Eyewear

  1. Ensure hospital grade disinfectant wipes are within reach.
  2. Perform hand hygiene prior to removing eye protection.
  3. When removing eye protection, reach up behind head or side of head; do not touch the front of contaminated eye protection.
  4. Place eye protection on a non-porous surface.
  5. Perform hand hygiene and don gloves.
  6. Using a hospital grade disinfectant wipe in one hand and the other hand to pick up eye protection, carefully wipe the inside surface of eye protection. Discard wipe.
  7. Still holding eye protection in the same hand, use the other hand and take a second hospital grade disinfectant, and wipe the outside surface of the eye protection. Discard wipe.
  8. Still holding eye protection in the same hand, use the other hand and take a third hospital grade disinfectant wipe to clean the surface where contaminated eye wear was placed during cleaning. Discard wipe.
  9. Place clean eye protection on clean surface.
  10. Remove gloves and perform hand hygiene.
  11. If visibility is compromised by residual disinfectant, eye protection can be rinsed with tap water.
  12. Allow eye protection to dry prior to next use. When dry, store in labelled paper or plastic bag.
  13. Store in a designated clean area in a manner to prevent contamination.

Sources:

  • https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html
  • Champlain Health Region Incident Command. (2020.10.30) Recommendations for PPE Use including universal mask and eye protection during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Adapted in part from Ottawa Public Health

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario