Personal Protective Equipment for Safer Welding
There’s an estimated 500,000 work-related injuries associated with welding due to risks like electric shock, fumes and gases, exposure to UV radiation, loss of vision, burns and many more. The unfortunate reality of this is that there are many safety precautions one can take to prevent most if not all of these injuries and welders should be taking care to work safely. Even more important, employers need to raise the bar on safety to help appeal to and retain the best welders. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is the only way to properly protect oneself on the job and while it may seem like an expensive investment initially, when compared to a permanent debilitating injury or death, the cost is quite low. Welding PPE by 3M is both effective and affordable, especially compared to the alternative, and there are a lot of different pieces of equipment to choose from.
Although there are a lot of choices for welding PPE, you can find what you need relatively easily with 3M’s quick reference guide. The quick reference guide shows a lot of the options for helmets and what features they have, and it also shows the options for various accessories like respirators (protection from fumes), hearing protection and Speedglas filters for your eyes. In short, it will help you find the right pieces of PPE to best protect you on the job. When you decide upon which pieces of equipment you’ll need, we can help you get it.
The first level of protection you can get is a helmet and/or face shield for basic protection against debris, sparks and more. These do not, however, offer protection against extreme brightness unless an appropriate filter is used. The 7800 face piece reusable respirator comes in large or small and can be used with a clip on filter and it covers your entire face. An alternative for just basic protection would also be the L-901SG wide view face shield which can be used with Adflo or GVP turbo air filtration, which we’ll look at later.
If you need a more traditional face plate/helmet ensemble with the ability to filter out the bright light endemic in welding there are truly a lot of options. The Speedglas welding helmet 9002 is made to order and features precision optics that give you a brighter and more realistic view. If needed, you can also buy a replacement filter. For Stick, MIG and most TIG welding, the Speedglas 100 helmet is a good choice and it also comes in patriotic and tough guy designs. You can see the Speedglas 100 filter in action here. An alternative for the same type of welding would be the Speedglas 9100 which features side windows for increased peripheral vision and comes with a grinding and torch mode. The 9100 is pretty convenient in that you can replace either the Speedglas 9100 helmet or the auto darkening filter without having to do both. You can see the 9100 in action here and here. The Speedglas filter, and other equipment like the Versaflo can have their batteries recharged with the TR-300. Protecting your head, eyes and face has never been easier.
In addition to protection for your eyes against brightness and your face and head against debris and flying pieces of heated metal, you also need to protect your lungs and body from toxic fumes created by melting and connecting metals. Basically, when you’re welding, you’re around fumes made of metallic oxides, silicates and fluorides and these can cause a lot of health problems down the road, namely various types of cancer, and Parkinson’s disease or symptoms similar to the disease. Luckily, we carry PPE to protect against fumes created by welding. At the most basic level, we carry 3M’s 8512 and the 8515 (both N95) particulate respirators for welding and each comes in a pack of 10. You can read the specifications for the 8512 and the 8515 and see other respirators compared here to ensure proper usage. For more thorough protection, you can use the Adflo air purifying respirator in conjunction with the Speedglas 9100 helmet and you can see a video of the Adflo here. An alternative, if appropriate, would be the Versaflo which has numerous pieces all available under our “respiratory protection” section under 3M. With the Versaflo, there are a lot of options, so make sure to do your homework or let us know if you have questions to make sure you get the setup that you need.
The next layer of protection that you need as a welder is hearing protection. If you have a helmet that covers your ears, you can probably get by with in-ear earplugs (disposable or the TEP-200), however having something that covers your ear completely is probably best because, with the right model, it can also protect against molten metal as well. The Speedglas product guide (linked earlier) recommends several different earmuffs to use with various Speedglas 9100s including the Peltor X1, X2, X3, X4, and the X5. To ensure the best hearing protection for your situation, 3M recommends to check their site for the best results.
Some other gear that will help you maintain a safe environment and protect what you’re working on are excellent for preventing sparks and flying, flaming pieces of metal. Spark deflection paper and welding drapes are used in auto body work and elsewhere to protect an area of the car (or something else) from sparks caused by welding or grinding. These are more of an environmental or project protection as opposed to PPE for oneself.
Welding can be a very dangerous job, however, getting and using the correct protective equipment will reduce or even eliminate those dangers from the job. By taking a few precautions, you can prevent or even eliminate many of the hazards that make welding dangerous. A little bit of prevention will go a long way to ensure that you remain free from injury on the job. Be sure to get it and more importantly, be sure to use it.