A protective combination of hard hat and welding goggles
Welding helmets are essential to protect the head, neck and eyes from the hazards of flying sparks and metal, as well as heat and radiant light.
Welding helmets equipped with filter lenses offer protection from arc rays and weld sparks. As an employer, you must ensure that each welding helmet has the correct lens shade number to provide adequate shading for the welding job at hand.
However, ANSI Z1949.1:2005 states that welding helmets "are not intended to protect against slag chips, grinding fragments, wire wheel bristles and similar hazards."
Different working environments demand different types of helmets, such as the ANSI Z87.1 standard mandating the use of a welding helmet with the correct filter plate to protect oneself against non-ionizing radiation.
Welding helmets are not to be confused with welding masks, which protect just the eyes and face of the worker, and not the rest of the head as welding helmets do.
For complete protection, the American Welding Society advises [PDF] that welding helmets with a shade filter plate should be used in combination with safety glasses with side shields to protect against ultraviolet, infrared or bright radiant light.
Protection against 'arc eye'
If a welder is constantly working with the same amperage and the same metal, you may want to use a welding helmet with a fixed lens shade number. Otherwise, if you use a variety of welding processes, it's best to use welding helmets with auto-shade features.
For longer-lasting welding helmets, choose those that offer scratch-resistant, impact-resistant and fog-resistant lenses for protection and clear viewing.
Welding helmets help protect workers' eyes against such conditions as "arc-eye." However, they are not enough alone to offer eye protection, but should always be worn with welding goggles.
Today you can get welding helmets with auto-darkening lenses and creature comforts such as
- battery-powered ventilation
- multiple sizes for comfort and fit
- anti-fog lenses
And for those welders who like to put their stamp of individuality on their PPE, there are welding helmets on the market emblazoned with creative designs - images of skulls and crossbones, tigers, warthogs and the like - that still comply with OSHA regulations.