It’s a given why welding requires personal protective equipment (or PPE). It exposes us to extreme heat, brightness, potentially hazardous materials, and more.
However, have you wondered what each of them is for? Or if you can use other PPEs as an alternative for quick jobs?
The Personal Protective Equipment and Clothing for Welding
Here are some of the clothes and equipment you can use for safety while welding, as recommended by most experts and Welding Choice:
Welding Helmet, Shield, or Goggles
One of the primary considerations when welding is protecting your eyes from the intense brightness produced by welding. You also need to be concerned about any flying debris, sparks, and potential chemical burns. Fortunately, you can find a wide variety of fire-resistant and brightness treated headgear to improve both visibility and protection.
We don’t recommend any skin exposure during welding. It makes it vulnerable to burns and radiation.
Earmuffs or Plugs
Earmuffs and plugs are essential to protect your ears from the noise produced while welding. Depending on your equipment, the sound produced can go beyond the decibels determined safe for human ears. Wearing ear protection also prevents sparks and debris from entering your ears.
Boots and Insulated Gloves
Protect your hands from heat, electricity, and chemical exposure with a pair of insulated gloves. Also, don’t forget a pair of rubber-soled safety boots to protect your feet.
Complete your ensemble with a respirator mask. Don’t worry; we’ll expand on mask use a little bit more down below.
Why Does a Welder Wear a Mask?
There are two types of airborne contaminants that a respirator mask seeks to block out: the small (yet hot) debris that can easily get inhaled and cause burns and the toxic byproduct of heating and melting various materials, such as fumes and smoke. The toxicity level will depend on various factors, such as the materials you’re working with and your chosen welding method. Please note that even the safest welding project will still expose you to significant risk. Hence, it is of critical importance to choose the right type of mask.
What Mask Should You Wear?
You are probably familiar with face masks already because of the current global health crisis. However, the respirator needed for welding is very different from disposable medical masks. For instance, it must be enough to filter out tiny gas particles that are as small as 0.3 micrometers. With that said, anything less than an N95 or N100 mask is unacceptable for welding use. We recommend using a half-mask respirator with a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (or HEPA) filter for the best protection. Finally, don’t forget to test if your mask fits. OSHA standard stipulates fit testing of a respirator before use. Proper training on how to wear PPEs properly is also highly recommended.
How to Wear a Respirator Mask
Here’s a quick guide on how to wear your respirator mask from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Position Your Mask
Put the respirator over your nose and chin area. It should fit snugly around your face with a minimum amount of force.
Secure It With the Straps
Your respirator will most likely come with two straps. If it does, then secure one below your ears and the other one above them.
Mold It Further
You want your mask to be completely sealed, so some respirators come with a nose clip, a pliable thin metal bar you can mold to the specific shape of your nose. Pinch it carefully with both hands.
Conduct the User Seal Check
Your respirator should come with a manual that instructs you how to perform a seal check before your potential fume exposure.
More Tips on Wearing a Respirator Mask
Here are further tips on using a respirator mask before welding:
Having facial hair can potentially affect the seal of your respirator. It is only allowable if found along the sealing area of your mask.
Change It as Needed
While there are respirators intended for multiple uses, you should never wear a mask that feels more difficult to breathe through or damaged in any way.
Keep It Ready for Use
Keep your respirator mask clean, dry, and in perfect form. Don’t let it lose its shape.
To Sum Up
Welding is definitely both an art and a necessity. However, it also comes with significant health risks, including extreme heat, intense brightness, deafening noise, and toxic fumes. Fortunately, there are various PPEs and safety apparel that one can wear not just to reduce these risks but to improve the quality of work produced as well. A mask or respirator is one of these pieces of protective equipment. You shouldn’t just wear any mask, though. It should be rated at least N95 or higher. These are the types of masks that prevent the inhalation of toxic airborne contaminants like fumes and smoke. Make sure to wear the mask as intended as well; otherwise, you will compromise your safety.