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What are the Main Safety Considerations in the Welding Sector?

Date: 27-07-2020

The heat, spatter and light emitted during welding can be generated from a variety of energy sources, including gas flames, electric arcs, friction and ultrasound. Accidents from welding include electric shocks, burns, breathing in harmful fumes and exposure to intense ultra violet light. 

Government Safety Standards

The Australian government’s approved code of practice for welding complies with Section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act. The code outlines the responsibility of employers and workers for the safe implementation of the welding process and the requirements needed to manage the risks involved.

Risk management and reduction relies on the dissemination of accurate information, proper training, instruction and good supervision. Welders need to familiarize themselves with working in hazardous and confined spaces, know emergency procedures and where to receive first aid, have access to data about dangerous chemicals involved during welding, and to be prepared for their health to be monitored after any incident.

Safety equipment for welding and other personal protective gear must be well maintained, and stored and used correctly. Equipment and clothing include welding curtains, aprons, gloves, and footwear; respirators and dust masks, and eye, ear and face protection, including welding helmets.

Eye Protection

Eye protection is required against the heat, sparks and optical radiation from infrared (IR), visible spectrum and ultraviolet (UV) light of a welding arc. Photokeratitis, often called arc eye, causes burning of the cornea and conjunctiva and is similar to sunburn. The victim may suffer pain, eye irritation, blurred vision, watery or bloodshot eyes, and become sensitive to normal light levels. In severe cases, or due to exposure overtime, the absorbed radiation leads to permanent retinal damage, cataracts, and increases the risk of cancer.

The primary protection for the face and eyes is the welding helmet, with light-filtering lenses required to prevent the threat from UV and IR radiation. The government standard for filters providing eye protection for industrial processes is covered in AS/NZS 1338.1.

The strength of the welding helmet lenses is measured in shades from #1, the clearest, to #13, the darkest. The correct shade depends on the type of welding conducted and the amperage used. For example, mild steel MIG with Argon requires shade #10 for 80-100 amps, #11 for between 100 and 175 amps, #12 for 175-300 amps and #13 for up to 500 amps; mild steel MIG with CO2 requires #13 from 175 to 300 amps.

Welder’s Helmets

Today, two types of welding helmets are available: the passive welding helmet, with a fixed shade, and the auto darkening helmet or ADF (auto darkening filter).

The passive welding helmet is usually cheaper, with different shade lenses available that are replaced manually. The faceguard flips up so the welder can inspect the work when finished.  If the welding tasks require a similar shade, the fixed filter helmet is feasible.

The auto darkening helmet remains clear until the welding starts, when sensors identify the activity and adjust the shade of the lens to accommodate the intensity. The eye does not perceive changes of less than a millisecond; the response time for good quality auto darkening helmets, at 4/10ths of a millisecond, ensures safety and comfort. If the work varies in amperage or welding methods, the ADF helmet allows the welder to switch tasks and save time without changing shade filters or headgear.

Alphaweld was formed in 2006 and has become a leading supplier of equipment and tools for the welding industry, including safety gear. If you want to find out more about welding helmets or other PPE, browse our product pages or contact us.