In addition to wearing gloves, the CDC recommends the use of glasses or goggles, depending on the cleaning or disinfecting product being used and whether or not it poses a potential splash hazard to eyes.

According to Allen, facial protection is more of a necessity than ever before due to the increase in widespread applications of disinfectants.

“The number one piece of cleaning equipment that has skyrocketed in the last year is sprayers and misters for disinfectants,” he says. “The escalation of their use has led to a definite need for eye and facial protection.”

Before COVID-19, Fagan Sanitary Supply’s customers seldom had a need for goggles or face shields, unless they were using touch-free restroom equipment. Today, demand for these safety items has increased significantly. However, when it comes to reducing the spread of infection, experts warn that face shields should not be worn as a substitute for face masks.

“Before the pandemic, face shields were used in dental and industrial situations,” notes Ashworth. “It wasn’t until the mask shortages that people started to wear face shields. In my opinion they should only be used in applications they were designed for. In most cases, eye protection is preferred.”

Ashworth advises facilities to reserve face shields for specialized tasks that require a full-body suit or gown, such as those involving the use of acids or widespread pesticide and herbicide applications.

Similarly, air-filtration masks, such as N95 respirators, are unnecessary for routine cleaning duties and should be reserved for medical environments. In most cases, reusable cloth or three-ply disposable masks are suitable for day-today cleaning operations.

With the relaxation of the CDC’s face mask policies, a number of distributors predict that masks will become less of a priority for custodial workers, outside of healthcare facilities.

Others believe that face masks will continue to be standard garb.

“Prior to the pandemic, people rarely wore masks, unless they were working with a noxious chemical, such as acid-base products,” says Williams. “Now, I believe masks are going to be the norm going forward — even after the pandemic winds down and vaccinations become more widespread.”

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