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Different Types of Welding Protection Explained

During welding, the eyes and face can be exposed to a number of hazards. Regular grade PPE does not provide the protection required. It is important to utilise specialised welding PPE to ensure the safety of your team. Welding helmets are designed to protect the face from the light emitted by welding arc, heat and any potential projectiles. There are two main types of welding helmets, passive, and auto-darkening.

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Passive Welding Helmets

Passive, or traditional helmets, have a fixed shade lens. When welding material is being positioned the helmet is worn above the head. Once the operator is ready to weld the helmet is pulled down to protect the face and eyes.

This helmet type is economical and suited for novice or infrequent welders.

Auto-Darkening Helmets

Auto-darkening helmets darken automatically once sensors on the helmet detect the arc start. This happens in a fraction of a second, removing the need for it to be taken on and off for every weld. In turn, decreasing user fatigue or possible repetitive strain injury. Auto-darkening models offer better vision which can increase the quality of the weld. Auto-darkening helmets are ideal for everyday welders and industry professionals.

Auto-darkening helmets come in two varieties, fixed and variable shade.

Fixed Shade

Fixed shades auto darken to #10 shade. This system combines economy with auto-darkening, making them suitable for welding activities that are repetitive with little differentiation.

Variable Shade

Variable shade lenses typically adjust from shade #9 to shade #13 to allow the best possible view of the welding pool while still protecting your eyes. Premium models will allow adjustment of the sensitivity and delay controls to best suit your needs. This system is suitable for engaging in different welding processes (MIG, TIG, Stick), or varying in amperage frequently.

For all helmets, the shade change happens in a fraction of a second, although in high-frequency welding, faster detection is beneficial and will reduce eye fatigue.

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Comfort & Fit

Comfort and fit of PPE are crucial to ensure safety compliance. Depending on how often welding occurs, pick a lightweight option that does not create pressure points on the head.

Welding helmets and screens are just part of the welding PPE requirements. To find out more, contact your local ATOM Safety team member.

Protect More Than Your Eyes

Not only is welding harsh on the eyes but in some applications can also produce toxic fumes. If this is the case for you or your team, ensure you also don the proper respiratory protection. Speedglas™ offer a range of welding helmets that include a PAPR respirator unit. Alternatively, there are PAPR units, from brands such as CleanSpace, that are made to fit underneath your welding helmet. A PAPR unit, unlike regular face masks, utilises a battery-operated blower that draws air into the appropriate filter to remove any contaminants before being delivered to the wearer.

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Welding Shades – What’s the Difference?

All welding lenses block 99.9% of the harmful UV radiation that is emitted by welding. The shade refers to how much visible light is allowed to reach the eye, the higher the shade the less light allowed through, and therefore the darker the image. The purpose of the shade is to darken the image to allow the eye to comfortably see and monitor the weld while in progress. Without a shade, the eye would be overwhelmed with light.

The shade picked will be determined by the mixture of how much light the welding applications emit and personal preference. The below table shows ATOM Safety's recommendations dependent on application. When choosing a welding shade for variable shade helmets, always start with one higher than you may possibly need, then reduce until a comfortable shade is reached.


Need help with understanding anything you've read above? Get in touch with the team at ATOM Safety to answer all of your welding safety questions.