Basic Welding Safety

Welding close up view

Proper safety equipment should always be used when welding.

Welding is performed in a variety of workplace settings as well as by hobbyists and individuals working around the home. While there are many considerations with regard to welding safety, and often those considerations are specific to the type of welding being performed, there are some basics that every welder must consider before beginning. Those basics include having the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect the welder as well as any individuals in the vicinity of welding work.

The following are the PPE essential for welding safety:

1. Welding Helmet
Standard welding helmets generally come with a glass lens coated with either infrared or ultraviolet shade with a rating of around #10. Unfortunately, these types of lenses require flipping the helmet lens down when lighting the welder and doing the actual welding and then lifting up the helmet for inspecting work. Many find this a hassle as they attempt to juggle welding equipment while flipping the lens. A solution to this situation is having an auto-darkening lens that will move from a shade rating of about #3 to one between #9 or #13 when the welder is lit. Regardless of the features chosen on a welding helmet, make sure it is ANSI Z87 certified to be sure of proper eye protection when welding.

Check back next week to learn “How to Choose a Welding Helmet.”

2. Safety Goggles
As with welding helmets, welding safety glasses also help protect welders against Photokeratitis, also known as “welder’s flash.”  In many cases, especially for arc welding, a welding helmet is the best option for eye and face protection since goggles alone will not protect the face. Many welders will wear safety goggles beneath welding helmets for additional eye protection; in fact, many work places often require the use of both a helmet and goggles. Safety goggles are essential for those who are in the area of someone who is welding but out of reach of flying sparks. As with a welding helmet, make sure safety glasses are also ANSI Z87 certified.

3. Proper Clothing
The rule to follow when choosing clothing to wear while welding is asking if it will withstand heat and protect from sparks. While clothing that is comfortable and non-restrictive is important, welders must also consider whether or not the additional protection of clothing (such as bibs) covering the chest, a welder’s cap under welding helmets are also necessary. The type of clothing chosen depends largely on the situation, but putting thought into what is worn is important for welding safety regardless of context.

4. Proper boots:
Footwear for the welder includes boots that are comfortable for standing for long periods of time but that also are made of a thick material to protect the welder from sparks. Choices range from rubber boots tall enough to cover ankles to standard work books. Additional options include a removable insole that can be washed as well as boots with anti-skid soles.

5. Welding Gloves
Welding gloves come in a variety of different materials to suit the needs of handling different levels of heat and even certain chemicals. The type of gloves chosen should be determined by the type of welding work done the most. Cowhide is the most durable, but it limits flexibility. Also, some gloves come with more padding than others. Kidskin and goatskin gloves will protect hands and are much thinner, allowing for a greater range of motion. In addition, there are gloves better suited for higher-heat conditions. Keep in mind that ANSI Z49.1 requires welders to wear gloves specific for welders because they are insulated and provide the necessary heat protection.

Welders should also keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case an errant spark turns into something more substantial. Additionally, a welder respirator or particle mask worn under a welding helmet is another important safety option as it will protect the welder from inhaling toxic chemicals. In addition to having the proper equipment, making sure the equipment that is purchased remains clean and in good working condition is also essential.

The basic safety equipment chosen for welding is the first line of defense to protect against severe eye injury and to prevent blindness in addition to protecting the body from flying sparks and intense heat. The American Welding Society provides more detail on PPE for welders, including information on ANSI and OSHA standards, in the fact sheet “Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Welding and Cutting.”

About Michael Eldridge

Michael Eldridge is the President and Founder of Safety Glasses USA, one of the web's largest providers of safety glasses and goggles. He's a US Marine Veteran who's particularly passionate about protective eyewear and helping people learn about vision safety. In his spare time he enjoys target shooting, fishing, camping with his family and watching Detroit Tigers baseball. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MikeEldridge73, Google or via the Safety Glasses USA Facebook Page.

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