Welding Protective Equipment
The electric welding arc is a very powerful source of light, including visible, ultraviolet, and infrared. Welding protective equipment and clothing should be worn during all welding operations. During all oxyacetylene welding and cutting processes, operators must use safety goggles to protect the eyes from heat, glare, and flying fragments of hot metals. During all electric welding processes, operators must use safety goggles and a hand shield or helmet equipped with a suitable filter glass to protect against the intense ultraviolet and infrared rays. When others are in the vicinity of the electric welding processes, the area must be screened so the arc cannot be seen either directly or by reflection from glass or metal.
Welding Helmets and Shields
Welding arcs are intensely brilliant lights. They contain a proportion of ultraviolet light which may cause eye damage. For this reason, the arc should never be viewed with the naked eye within a distance of 50.0 ft (15.2 m). The brilliance and exact spectrum, and therefore the danger of the light, depends on the welding process, the metals in the arc, the arc atmosphere, the length of the arc, and the welding current. Operators, fitters, and those working nearby need protection against arc radiation. The intensity of the light from the arc increases with increasing current and arc voltage. Arc radiation, like all light radiation, decreases with the square of the distance. Those processes that produce smoke surrounding the arc have a less bright arc since the smoke acts as a filter. The spectrum of the welding arc is similar to that of the sun. Exposure of the skin and eyes to the arc is the same as exposure to the sun.
Being closest to the welding arc, the welder needs a helmet to protect his eyes and face from harmful light and particles of hot metal. The welding helmet (fig. 2-1) is generally constructed of a pressed fiber insulating material. It has an adjustable headband that makes it usable by persons with different head sizes. To minimize reflection and glare produced by the intense light, the helmet is dull black in color. It fits over the head and can be swung upward when not welding. The chief advantage of the welding helmet is that it leaves both hands free, making it possible to hold the work and weld at the same time.
The hand-held welding shield (fig. 2-1) provides the same protection as the welding helmet, but is held in position by the handle. This type of shield is frequently used by an observer or a person who welds for a short period of time.
The protective welding helmet has lens holders used to insert the cover glass and the filter glass or plate. Standard size for the filter plate is 2 x 4-1/4 in. (50 x 108 mm). In some helmets lens holders open or flip upwards. Lenses are designed to prevent flash burns and eye damage by absorption of the infrared and ultraviolet rays produced by the arc. The filter glasses or plates come in various optical densities to filter out various light intensities, depending on the welding process, type of base metal, and the welding current. The color of the lens, usually green, blue, or brown, is an added protection against the intensity of white light or glare. Colored lenses make it possible to clearly see the metal and weld. Table 2-1 lists the proper filter shades to be used. A magnifier lens placed behind the filter glass is sometimes used to provide clear vision.
A cover plate should be placed outside the filter glass to protect it from weld spatter. The filter glass must be tempered so that is will not break if hit by flying weld spatter. Filter glasses must be marked showing the manufacturer, the shade number, and the letter “H” indicating it has been treated for impact resistance.
Gas metal-arc (MIG) welding requires darker filter lenses than shielded metal-arc (stick) welding. The intensity of the ultraviolet radiation emitted during gas metal-arc welding ranges from 5 to 30 times brighter than welding with covered electrodes.
Do not weld with cracked or defective shields because penetrating rays from the arc may cause serious burns. Be sure that the colored glass plates are the proper shade for arc welding. Protect the colored glass plate from molten metal spatter by using a cover glass. Replace the cover glass when damaged or spotted by molten metal spatter.
Face shields (fig. 2-2) must also be worn where required to protect eyes. Welders must wear safety glasses and chippers and grinders often use face shields in addition to safety glasses.
Colored glass must be manufactured in accordance with specifications detailed in the “National Safety Code for the Protection of Hands and Eyes of Industrial Workers”, issued by the National Bureau of Standards, Washington DC, and OSHA Standards, Subpart Q, “Welding, Cutting, and Brazing”, paragraph 1910.252, and American National Standards Institute Standard (ANSI) Z87.1-1968, “American National Standard Practice for Occupational and Educational Eye and Face Protection”.
In some welding operations, the use of mask-type respirators is required. Welding helmets with the “bubble” front design can be adapted for use with respirators.
During all electric welding processes, operators must wear safety goggles (fig. 2-3) to protect their eyes from weld spatter which occasionally gets inside the helmet. These clear goggles also protect the eyes from slag particles when chipping and hot sparks when grinding. Contact lenses should not be worn when welding or working around welders. Tinted safety glasses with side shields are recommended, especially when welders are chipping or grinding. Those working around welders should also wear tinted safety glasses with side shields.
Welding Protective Clothing
Welders exposed to the hazards created by welding, cutting, or brazing operations should be protected by personal protective equipment in accordance with OSHA standards, Subpart I, Personal Protective Equipment, paragraph 1910.132. The appropriate protective clothing (fig. 2-4) required for any welding operation will vary with the size, nature, and location of the work to be performed. Welders should wear work or shop clothes without openings or gaps to prevent arc rays from contacting the skin. Those working close to arc welding should also wear protective clothing. Clothing should always be kept dry, including gloves.
Woolen clothing should be worn instead of cotton since wool is not easily burned or damaged by weld spatter and helps to protect the welder from changes in temperature. Cotton clothing, if used, should be chemically treated to reduce its combustibility. All other clothing, such as jumpers or overalls, should be reasonably free from oil or grease.
Flameproof aprons or jackets made of leather, fire resistant material, or other suitable material should be worn for protection against spatter of molten metal, radiated heat, and sparks. Capes or shoulder covers made of leather or other suitable materials should be worn during overhead welding or cutting operations. Leather skull caps may be worn under helmets to prevent head burns.
Sparks may lodge in rolled-up sleeves, pockets of clothing, or cuffs of overalls and trousers. Therefore, sleeves and collars should be kept buttoned and pockets should be eliminated from the front of overalls and aprons. Trousers and overalls should not be turned up on the outside. For heavy work, fire-resistant leggings, high boots, or other equivalent means should be used. In production work, a sheet metal screen in front of the worker’s legs can provide further protection against sparks and molten metal in cutting operations.
Flameproof gauntlet gloves, preferably of leather, should be worn to protect the hands and arms from rays of the arc, molten metal spatter, sparks, and hot metal. Leather gloves should be of sufficient thickness so that they will not shrivel from the heat, burn through, or wear out quickly. Leather gloves should not be used to pick up hot items, since this causes the leather to become stiff and crack. Do not allow oil or grease to cane in contact with the gloves as this will reduce their flame resistance and cause them to be readily ignited or charred.
Welding Protective Equipment
Where there is exposure to sharp or heavy falling objects or a hazard of bumping in confined spaces, hard hats or head protectors should be used.
For welding and cutting overhead or in confined spaces, steel-toed boots and ear protection should also be used.
When welding in any area, the operation should be adequately screened to protect nearby workers or passers-by from the glare of welding. The screens should be arranged so that no serious restriction of ventilation exists. The screens should be mounted so that they are about 2.0 ft above the floor unless the work is performed at such a low level that the screen must be extended closer to the floor to protect adjacent workers. The height of the screen is normally 6.0 ft (1.8 m) but may be higher depending upon the situation. Screen and surrounding areas must be painted with special paints which absorb ultraviolet radiation yet do not create high contrast between the bright and dark areas. Light pastel colors of a zinc or titanium dioxide base paint are recommended. Black paint should not be used.