A responsible welder’s top priority should always be safety, not only their own but of those around them as well. Always remember that welding technology and its associated equipment pose a wide range of risks, some visible and some invisible. Like all industries, welding professionals need to educate themselves about proper and safe work procedures.
A successful welder utilises the best welding equipment and personal protective gear to ensure safe and proper welding. While each safety gear contributes to the welder’s well-being, the first among equals is the welding helmet.
Welding helmets are the welder’s first line of defense for his face, eyes and neck. While welding, the welder is exposed to a range of dangers like extreme heat, UV and infrared light, sparks and flash burns. These dangers can lead to permanent and debilitating injuries to the welder. For instance, long-term exposure to UV rays can damage the cornea and the retinas and lead to photokeratitis, also known as arc eye, and even permanent blindness.
It is extremely important that welders, whether a hobbyist or a professional, wear welding helmets while on the job. There are many kinds of welding helmets available in the market, and a person looking for one is bound to come across countless brands and models. Shopping for the right welding helmet can be confusing, especially for someone who is not familiar with its particulars.
Here are some basic pointers which can help prospective buyers choose the right welding helmet for them.
TYPES OF WELDING HELMETS
There are two basic types of welding helmets: Passive welding helmets and auto-darkening welding helmets. Both types will help protect the welder from harmful UV ray exposure. The main difference between the two is the way the lenses work.
Passive Welding Helmets
Passive welding helmets are your standard, traditional welding helmets. These are the helmets the earliest welders used, and are still incredibly popular today. The welder has to lift the passive helmet up when positioning the torch, gun or electrode. Once positioning is complete and the welder is ready to begin, the helmet is quickly snapped into place.
Passive helmets are the most basic welding helmets. The helmet lends uses dark-tinted glass that wards off UV and infrared rays. Basic does not automatically mean bare bones, and they are inexpensive and sturdy since they are typically made from moulded plastics.
However, novice welders may find it difficult to position the gun or electrode while the welding helmet is in place. The repeated flipping of the helmet while welding can also cause neck fatigue and even stress injuries. Short welds like track welding are also more difficult to perform due to the manual nature of the welding helmet. Finally, the welder might strike the arc before the helmet has been flipped into position, leading to accidental exposure.
Auto-darkening Welding Helmets
Auto-darkening welding helmets are the cooler, techier cousins of passive welding helmets. When the sensors on the helmet detect an arc start, the helmet lens almost instantaneously darkens a higher shade, depending on the type of welding performed or the heat detected by the sensors. The helmet then reverts to a lighter shade after a period of time has elapsed with no arc start detected.
Since auto-darkening helmets are automated, the need to repetitively lift the visor is eliminated. Welders can see through the viewing lens and perform adjustments without taking the helmet off. Auto-darkening helmets are also more comfortable, and welders can focus on their work without any fatigue, discomfort or injury risk. Short welding can be performed easily without any encumbrances.
The advantages offered by auto-darkening helmets are reflected in its high price tag. The technology that makes auto-darkening lenses possible and the unique materials used make manufacturing these helmets more expensive. The helmets also need to be handled carefully, since they are outfitted with complex electronics. The sensors and lenses also have to be replaced. Apart from the high initial cost, the welder also has to regularly purchase new batteries when the old ones run out.