How to ensure your PPE keeps you safe when welding
Posted on 29th May, 2018 | By Lorretta Tatham
Welding is a famously hazardous known method of metalworking, to the degree that the safety equipment for it is almost instantly recognisable anywhere in the world. There are various different types of welding, but many of the most common practices and procedures involve an open flame or electric arc, which leaves the welder potentially vulnerable to burns or shocks. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is therefore a must.
It’s not enough to just shrug it on, though – you have to know how exactly how it protects you, and how you can help your PPE to best do its job. That’s why this week on the blog we’ll be going into some of the key pieces of PPE, as well as how to ensure all aspects of your attire maximise your safety against the risks.
The essential PPE for welding
As we’ve touched upon, you always need to have the correct PPE to hand. That includes, as a bare minimum:
- Safety glasses
- Protective, auto-darkening helmet or face mask
- Welding jacket
- Welding gloves
- Suitable trousers
- Leather shoes
All gear must be inspected beforehand by a professional to ensure it’s up to the task. Welding helmets need to be fitted with a proper filter shade to protect your eyes and face, and safety glasses (with side shields and ear protection) need to be worn underneath the helmet. Another key check is to ensure that your attire is appropriately flame-retardant. Though in previous years, flame-resistant gear was infamously heavy, modern manufacturers are producing attire that is both lightweight and comfortable, without sacrificing any of its safety benefits.
As well as the open flames, gases and fumes are another major hazard that welders often have to deal with, so you may be issued with a respirator or a fixed/removable exhaust hoods to protect you from the environmental dangers. Naturally, if your employer sees fit to issue you with one, it is not by any means optional, whether or not you think it’s necessary.
Maximise your protection when welding
As with many other forms of workshop and tooling practices, experts recommend having gear that fits well. This means avoid folding your sleeves up, and wearing leather boots with at least 6” to 8” ankle coverage. (Obviously, any exposed skin near welding torches is hugely inadvisable!)
You may already know why folded sleeves are inadvisable from our previous post on working with abrasive wheels. Broadly the same principles apply here – flying sparks can catch in an open pocket, cuffs, or even a shirt that’s not fully buttoned up. Best case scenario, this can give you a brief but painful burn, and in the worst case it can result in much more serious (potentially even life-changing) injuries. To avoid this, make sure that your cuffs are rolled down and your front pockets aren’t exposed – this is where the apron comes in handy!
Heavy-duty flame-resistant gloves are also required, and before you put them on you’ll need to first ensure they’re dry to avoid any chance of electrocution. Finally, to ensure that your vision is unimpeded but effectively protected, it’s best to start with your helmet’s visor at the darkest tint, and slowly lighten it until you can clearly see the weld and the puddle.
We hope this has given you some insight on how to ensure that your PPE is effectively protecting you when welding. Whether you’re engaging in welding or another form of workmanship, we can’t overstate the importance of Personal Protective Equipment in general. For more expert advice on how to guarantee the safety of both you and your employees, we run a number of accredited safety courses here at Browns Safety – including our Abrasive Wheels training course and UKATA Asbestos Awareness training course. Feel free to browse our full range of health and safety training courses – you can book your place by clicking on any of the links above, or giving us a call on 01282 615517.