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Welding PPE - What Is It And Why Is Important? - A Detailed Guide
If you are someone who works in the welding industry then personal protective equipment or PPE is a must for you while you are at work. You would always be surrounded by risks and fire hazards and one small mistake can even cost you your life. When you are welding, you are dealing with molten metal which is around 10000°F hot and can cause grave burns and injuries. Wearing a proper PPE is of paramount importance so that you can be assured of your personal safety while you work.
In this article, you will find out about the various components of welding PPE, their importance in shielding you from possible hazards, and about how to choose the right welding PPE found in the market.
Components Of Welding PPE
Welding PPE aims to give you head to toe protection. Remember you are dealing with fire and liquid metal, so even a small spark on an exposed body part can cause a lot of pain and anguish.
- Equipment to protect the head
Your head requires special protection because it houses most of the external sensory organs. There are different types of equipment that you can use to protect your head from possible injuries and some of them are listed below.
- Welding Safety Glasses
Welding safety glasses offer front as well as side protection to your eyes. They fit well and provide an unrestricted view for you while guarding you from fire. The lens can be made of various materials like polycarbonate, NXT polyurethane, optical glass, or acrylic. NXT polyurethane offers best visibility but it is also the most expensive option.
- Welding Goggles
Wearing welding goggles can protect your eyes from the intense heat caused due to UV and IR radiation during the welding process. These can also shield your eyes from the hot sparks and debris. There are different kind of filters coming with these goggles and you can choose based on the kind of welding work you will be doing.
Welding goggles may have direct vents, indirect vents, or no vents for air circulation to prevent misting up of the lens while you work.
- Face Shield
Face shields are designed from polycarbonate material and they protect your face from incoming sparks and smolders.
- Welding Mask
Welding mask is smaller and less heavy than a full helmet. It can guard your face to a considerable extent and if the splattering level is low, you can use it while you are doing your welding work.
- Ear Protector
If your face shield or mask does not cover your ears, you need to wear fire-resistant earmuffs that cover your entire ears to prevent any injury.
- Welding Helmet
A welding helmet can fully guard your head from fire and heat radiation. The lens often comes with adjustable brightness and it offers excellent visibility both while welding and during the breaks between your work. It is the safest as it protects you from sparks, flash burns, heat, UV, and IR radiation.
- Equipment to protect the lungs
When you are welding you are exposed to toxic fumes and gases which are basically the gaseous forms of the metals you are working with. They will rapidly turn back to their solid metallic form and if you inhale these fumes, they can cause serious harm to your lungs. Breathing in the metallic fumes can cause inflammation in your lungs, nose, and eyes. It can also create prolonged health issues. Also, carbon monoxide is a byproduct formed commonly during welding and it can even cause death through suffocation.
You would need to use a respirator that enables you to breathe in clean air and blocks the toxic fumes and oxides from entering your lungs. You can go for the half-mask respirator which can be worn under a helmet and is not too bulky to wear. However, if fresh air circulation is poor where you work, you would need to go for the full respirator. The US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends the standards for effective respirator usage and you can follow their guidelines.
- Equipment to protect the body
You need protective gear to prevent burn injuries on various parts of your body. Some of the common equipment used are listed below.
- Welding Aprons and bibs
Welding aprons are available in various lengths and may cover half to full body. These are made of different fire-resistant materials like leather, cotton, and cowhide with Kevlar stitching. Based on the rating, these can protect you from fire and heat of varying degree.
- Welding Jackets
Welding jackets protect your torso from the flames and sparks. These can be made of different materials like leather, cotton, or cotton-leather mix. You need to choose the right jacket after taking into consideration the kind of work and temperatures you need to deal with every day.
- Welding Shirts
Welding shirts are made of fire-resistant materials which can extinguish sparks and flames in case any debris lands on you. There could be small holes on the shirt but at least the burns would not reach your skin.
- Welding Pants
Welding pants need to be comfortable and also protective. Since you are likely to be standing for long hours, it would not be feasible for you to work in something hot and uncomfortable. Usually, denim material is the preferred choice for making welding pants. These are comfortable as well as fire-resistant. Some pants also have special padding at the knee.
- Equipment to protect hands and feet
Hot debris or sparks can cause permanent injuries to your hands and feet if you do not cover them with proper equipment while you work. Some of the equipment used to protect your hands and feet are listed below.
- Welding Gloves
Welding gloves are made of deerskin or cowhide and the stitching is usually done with Kevlar materials for extra strength and fire resistance. Some gloves cover the whole hand up to the wrist while others may cover the entire forearm.
- Welding Boots
Welding boots usually come with 100% leather upper for comfort and safety. These are resistant to fire hazards and the inner lining has moisture-wicking properties and good ventilation to keep your feet cool and dry. The boots are comfortable and guard you effectively against possible fire accidents.
How To Select The Correct Welding PPE
Since welding jobs involve a lot of risk and fire hazards, you need to analyze the risks properly and decide on the type of PPE you will be wearing. Usually, it is the employer who does this work for you. There should be a document mentioning all kinds of risks and hazards your job exposes you to. Based on that your PPE can be chosen. There are industry regulated standards like OSHA, ANSI, and CSA which can guide you to select the appropriate PPE for yourself.
Usually, everyone who is involved with some work in a welding factory will need to wear PPE as a uniform. All employees may be required to wear fire-resistant coveralls, safety boots, safety glasses, and hard hats. However, those who are dealing with the welding activities directly are more exposed to fire and radiation hazards and hence they will require additional equipment like welding helmet and welding gloves.
- What PPE does OSHA recommend for welders?
The OSHA mandatory standard specifies that welders would need to wear both protective eye equipment and fire-resistant clothing while doing welding work.
- Is it tough to work while wearing fire-resistant gloves?
Fire-resistant leather gloves hold out well against flames and heat but on the other hand, they are a little stiff and impedes the dexterity of your fingers. Some leather gloves are so designed that they are quite flexible and you would be able to move your fingers nimbly while wearing them. However, these gloves are a little costly.
- What are welding chaps?
Welding chaps are like aprons for the legs. You can wear them from waist down and the chaps cover the front and side portions of your legs as well as the top of your boots. Made of fire-resistant material, this equipment gives additional protection to your legs and feet.
- Is a knee cap an important part of the PPE?
A knee cap protects your knee from fire and also saves you from scratches and pains. If your welding job requires you to do a lot of work sitting down on the floor then it makes sense to wear knee caps.
Welding PPE is a necessary safety gear for you if you are employed in the welding industry. Even the smallest of the sparks or debris can blind you or maim you for life. It is important that you choose the right kind of welding PPE.
Different brands manufacture the best PPE complying to the industry regulated standards and norms. The best kind of work gear do not impede your range of motion while providing you the best kind of protection against fire and heat. Always double check on the fire rating before you get your PPE. When you are dealing with fire, it is always better to be safe than sorry.
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