Wearing a Face Shield

Elvex BrushGuard w/27dB NRR Equalizer Earmuffs and Face Shield

Elvex BrushGuard w/27dB NRR Equalizer Earmuffs and Face Shield

Face shields are a requirement in many professions and for a variety of tasks in the workplace. OSHA requires the use of face shields when workers are exposed to flying objects, molten metal, liquid chemicals, acids or caustic liquids, chemical gases or vapors, or potentially injurious light radiation. Specific jobs requiring the use of face shields include welders, some medical workers, industrial painters and workers in chemical plants.

While not all jobs and tasks require a face shield, they are often simply a good idea. The following 5 conditions warrant consideration for the use of face shields.

  1. Flying fragments. This includes dust and other material that can fly into eyes such as when using power tools to cut, shape or remove materials. Individuals using chainsaws should also use face shields like the Evlex BrushGuard with Equalizer Earmuffs and Face Shield or the Elvex ProGuard Loggers Safety Cap.
  2. Chance of Splashing. Those handling acids, corrosives, chemical adherents or strippers and those working with blood and other body fluids should wear face shields. Shields such as the Elvex Clear Hardcoated Lexan Face Shield can help protect against chemical splashes.
  3. Heat. Anyone doing furnace maintenance, engaging in welding or handling any molten substance should use a face shield. Pyramex offers several helmets providing comprehensive face and head protection for these situations. (See How to Choose a Welding Helmet and Basic Welding Safety for more details related to this topic.)
  4. Glare. While many circumstances warrant the need for glare reduction, sports probably provides one of the best examples. For example, face shields worn on football helmets not only help reduce glare, shields such as the Bangerz ProVU Smoke Flexible Football Eyeshield can also help protect against a variety of other factors.
  5. Impact. Face shields can provide additional protection against impact. However, OSHA does not recommend that workers rely on them solely for this purpose. Instead, wearing impact safety eyewear below the shield is a good idea to ensure protection against impact hazards.

In addition to the above, there are a number of considerations to take into account when deciding on the type of face shield to use as well as the features to include. Consider the following 5 options when choosing a face shield.

  1. Side shields on face shields provide increased protection. Those working with heat should definitely use side shields, but really any task where material could be flying around warrants using side shields. Many face shields come with protection for the sides of the face.
  2. Goggle styles such as the Jackson MonoShield with Goggles provide another option for face protection for those working in clean rooms, public utilities, metal processing, foundries, mining, construction and more.
  3. Headgear with face shields usually comes in adjustable styles. Hard hat designs such as the Elvex UltiMate Standard Ratchet Headgear for Universal Face Shields and the Elvex UltiMate Heavy Duty Ratchet Headgear for Universal Face Shields provide head and face protection. Hard hat designs can come with shields that are either plastic or wire-screen and lift-front or removable. Face shields with headgear typically include straps that are adjustable to fit an individual user, allowing face shields to be easily shared between individuals.
  4. Windows are available in removable or lift-front design. Removable windows allow for easy replacement while lift-front styles can be lowered and raised easily as the task requires.
  5. Window material comes in plastic or wire-screen models. Plastic protects against light impact and is available in clear or filtered. Wire-screen windows may include a glass or plastic insert and can protect against moderate impact, but they are not recommended for work involving chemical or liquid hazards.

For many tasks, a face shield is an absolute must. And while face shields provide a great deal of protection for the face with regard to elements such as heat, chemical splash and dust, shields DO NOT provide complete protection against impact hazards. For this reason, OSHA recommends wearing safety glasses below face shields for comprehensive impact protection.

How to Choose a Welding Helmet

Last week, in Basic Welding Safety, the basic PPE’s necessary for welders to be protected was discussed. This week, we will focus more specifically on choosing the best welding helmet.

The cost of welding helmets ranges from about $15 for a basic standard helmet to over $100 for auto-darkening helmets depending on the features. Welding Design and Fabrication says that “as a general rule, spending more on a welding helmet will increase comfort, improve your welding ability, result in higher quality welds and ensure your safety.” With that being said, let’s consider the various options available on welding helmets to help determine the best helmet for the situation.

Pyramex Leadhead Welding Helmet

Auto-Darkening Helmets like the Pyramex LeadHead reduce or eliminate the need to constantly raise the hood to view your work.

There are two basic lens types for welding helmets: standard glass lenses and auto-darkening lenses. Standard helmets are ones such as the Pyramex LeadHead Passive Welding Helmet Shade 10. These helmets:

  • Provide basic protection in a low price range from about $15-$30.
  • Provide sufficient head and face welding protection.
  • Have a viewing lens that is a piece of dark, tinted glass, usually with a #10 shade and ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) coating.
  • Must be manually lifted and lowered after lighting the welder and prior to welding as well as when finished welding or to inspect work before proceeding.
  • Can present a challenge when the individual must keep the gun/torch in proper position while simultaneously lowering and raising the helmet. This can be especially difficult for beginners.
  • Can be difficult to use in restricted spaces that have limited room for moving the helmet face up and down.
  • Can lead to neck discomfort from having to move the helmet face up and down multiple times a day, day after day.
  • Can result in less efficiency from having to move the helmet up and down regularly.
    • Are a good choice for the home welder and handyman who does the occasional welding job.
    • May not be a good choice for anyone doing heavy welding or who does TIG welding.

Auto-Darkening Helmets are ones such as the Pyramex LeadHead Auto Darkening Welding Helmet with IR9-13 Sensitivity Adjustment and the Pyramex LeadHead Black Auto Darkening Helmet with Adjust IR9-13. These helmets:

  • Cost quite a bit more than the standard welding helmet with prices generally starting at just over $100.
  • Provide sufficient head and face welding protection.
  • Have an electronic filter lens.
  • Have an auto-darkening lens with a liquid crystal display (LCD).
  • Are equipped with adjustable features such as sensors on the helmet that darken the lens to a #9 or #13 shade, depending on the settings.
  • Almost instantaneously darken and lighten automatically.
  • Typically shade to #3 or #4, which is easy to see out of for inspecting work or lighting the welder, when the lens is not activated. Welding Design and Fabrication notes that this is especially helpful because the “arc starts easier because the welder can see the position of his MIG gun, TIG torch or stick electrode relative to the material he is welding.”
  • Generally have a switch outside the helmet to allow the user to adjust the darkness settings manually. This can be especially helpful for welders who work with various materials.

With all that being said, some welders believe that an auto-darkening helmet is not a necessity. One welder said that he believes they are “a luxury, not a necessity.” He further said he recommends spending “your money on your welding machine and your welding rods”  because “the more you practice welding, the more you will realize your welding rod or welding gun are nothing more than an extension of your hand, and it’s pretty easy to figure out where that is at all times, even if you’re not looking. After all, practice does make perfect.” On the other hand, some say that “many injuries have been eliminated by auto darkening helmets because they cover a welder’s eyes at all times without risking exposure to irritating fumes and flying debris.”

Knowing what’s available as well as what you prefer is the best approach to deciding on the type of welding helmet you should purchase. Use the above tips to make the best-informed decision possible.

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.”