Welding safety is no accident

While many of the best welding safety practices seem like common sense, a survey of attendees at the National Safety Council’s 2007 Congress & Expo found that non-compliance with personal protective equipment protocols remains an issue. Some of the leading reasons: safety gear that fits poorly and looks ugly. Fortunately, recent efforts by PPE providers address these issues.


Many of the best welding safety practices seem like common sense. Yet sadly, safety violations persist. In fact, a survey of attendees at the National Safety Council’s 2007 Congress & Expo found that non-compliance with personal protective equipment protocols remains an issue. Some of the leading reasons: safety gear that fits poorly and looks ugly. Fortunately, recent efforts by PPE providers address these very issues.
“Comfort and style promote greater utilization of safety gear,” said Bill Gardner, a product manager with Miller Electric Manufacturing Company. “The PPE industry has recognized that it can encourage greater use by combining the‘Four Fs’ when designing safety gear: fit, form, function and fashion.”
As a result, products not only look better, they provide increased levels of protection.

Auto-darkening welding helmets
Auto-darkening helmets with cutting-edge graphics burst on the scene about five years ago, and the graphics caused the helmets’ popularity to skyrocket. One trend is for welders and employers to split the helmet costs 50-50, with welders owning their helmet outright after three years.
In 2007, helmets became available with a “grind mode,” where the helmet lens did not darken from grinding sparks. The welder could now use one tool for both welding and grinding, eliminating the hassle of switching between a face shield and a welding helmet. High-end helmets can now electromagnetically sense the welding arc, so they darken even if the optical sensors are blocked. This especially helps when welding pipe out-of-position.
The well-dressed (safe) welder
Auto-darkening helmets typically provide numerous safety advantages over fixed shade helmets. To start, welders keep the helmet down longer because they do not need to flip the helmet up to reposition themselves. As a result, welders are:
Less subject to stray arc flashes from adjacent welding cells. Even in the undarkened state, these helmets protect against harmful UV and IR rays.
Less likely to develop neck fatigue or repetitive stress injuries.
Better equipped for projects with numerous tack welds (they use their helmet instead of turning their head and closing their eyes).

TIG welders are notorious for not wearing a glove on the hand that feeds the filler rod. They claim they can’t feel the rod well enough. Some heavy-duty MIG/Stick gloves are so bulky that they make using a side-cutter to clip the end of the welding wire almost impossible. In both instances, welders are more likely to burn their hand.
To encourage use, today’s TIG and heavy-duty MIG/Stick gloves are incredibly form fitting. They curve with the hand to feel like a second skin. Strategically placed padding prevents wear in high-use areas, provides extra protection

This welder demonstrates basic welding safety gear. Specific applications may require additional equipment.

from heat and allows the TIG torch or MIG gun to fall naturally into the crease of the hand. Longer gauntlets protect the wrist area.

Some of the newest full-leather welding jackets look and feel so good, they could be mistaken for premium biker jackets. They have “expandable” leather in key areas for added mobility so they won’t bind or feel tight, and “Barracuda-style” collars that button shut for better neck protection. The sleeves have adjustable snaps for better wrist protection.
Cloth jackets have advanced, too. Made from products like INDURA flame-resistant cloth, the jackets are sewn with Nomex flame-resistant thread and have options for snapping a leather apron to the front for added protection.

The use of powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs) should see increasing use because OSHA now mandates reduced exposure levels for hexavalent chromium, a fume created when welding stainless steel. PAPRs protect against particles, fumes and dust, enabling welders to breathe continuously filtered air. Newer models are sleek, better fitting and weigh less %%MDASSML%% all features that promote their use.

Tom Sommers is a product manger for Miller Electric Manufacturing Company.

See the June issue of Plant Engineering for a feature on pipe welding.

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