Welding is equally dangerous for newcomers and hardened veterans alike. You’re dealing with very high temperatures, melted metal, electric arcs, and debris flying all over the place. So, it makes sense that you should be wearing some quality welding safety gear whether you’re at a job site or performing minor household repair work.
As to what safety gear you’ll need, that will depend on the type of welding you’re doing and what you need to protect yourself from. Here are the most common risks you’re exposing yourself to while welding and the gear that can keep you safe from harm.
Common Safety Risks
There are several things that can happen when you’re welding. That’s why protective welding gear is available for every part of your body. Depending on the type of the welding machine (for example, TIG & MIG) you’re using, you’ll be exposing yourself to very specific risks. Here’s why you need protection.
Excessive noise may not seem too scary. But, consider the fact that many welding projects can expose you to levels of over 100dB. Anything above 85dB is already considered damaging after prolonged exposure.
When working with electric currents and live electrical circuits, getting shocked becomes a real danger. Touching the electrode when you’re also touching the welded metal can give you an electric shock. I shouldn’t need to stress how dangerous that can be if you’re welding on a ladder.
When welding in damp conditions, things can get even more dangerous. Welding on metal flooring or on top of metal structures can also significantly increase the risk of getting an electric shock.
UV and IR Radiation
No matter what type of welding you’re doing, you’re likely creating very bright light. Long-term exposure to it without proper protection can lead to a condition known as arc-eye. You should also be aware of the potential flash burns, foreign bodies getting into your eyes, sparks, dust, you name it.
Exposure to nitrogen and nickel oxides, carbon monoxide, and many other fumes is also a possibility when welding. Protection will be necessary in order to avoid developing asthma, metal fume fever, lung irritation, or even cancer, since welding fumes are considered carcinogenic.
Essential Welding Gear
Fire-resistant clothing should be the first thing you buy. This is what protects you from heat, radiation released during the welding process, and potential burns. Now, as great as fire-resistant clothing is, how you wear it is also important.
Remember to keep all pockets closed, remove cuffs, and pull over any flaps. Finally, stay away from synthetic materials. Flame-resistant cotton and leather are much better options.
Insulated boots and gloves are very important too. First of all, look for steel toe-capped work boots. Make sure that they also have rubber soles to protect you from electric shocks and discharges. Though it’s optional, you can also get a pair of rugged work socks for further protection. Your gloves should also be well insulated and flame-resistant.
Welding helmets are important whether you’re an experienced welder or not. Given the amount of sparks flying, when doing very delicate welding and finishing, you may have to get a bit closer to the action in order to better see what you’re doing.
In these situations, having protective eyewear is essential. Welding helmets or masks are a lot better since they can protect your entire face from debris that can cause chemical burns.
Keep in mind that some welding helmets come with adjustable lens filters. This is usually a premium feature, but it’s worth every penny if you work on a variety of projects and also use more than one type of welder.
It will allow you to adjust the filter so that your visibility is never compromised, no matter how bright the arc is. And, while you usually don’t need protection at the back of your head, you should also consider a fire-resistant hood attachment. It can protect you from sparks coming from other welding stations, if you’re working at a site.
Non-Essential Safety Gear
As previously mentioned, noise is a given in any welding project. To protect yourself from excessively loud noises, you should invest in some ear plugs or ear muffs. I recommend getting ear plugs since they’re less exposed to sparks. But, you should still make sure that they’re not made of flammable materials.
Get Your Spark on
It’s important to find welding safety gear in your correct size. Even flame-retardant clothing and safety gear can get in your way if too big. While acquiring the essential welding safety gear should be your first priority, I recommend going all out to avoid any potential risks.
Ear plugs, hoods, and other minor attachments won’t cost you a lot, but can save you from a lot of pain and trouble down the road.
A hardcore woodworking and welding enthusiast, Russ is the editor-in-chief of TAH. In his spare time, Russ loves watching sports, and (binge) watching Netflix.