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Welding PPE: 7 Key Areas Needed for Safety

welder at work

While robotic welding has made significant advances in modern technology, robots cannot do everything, so steps must be taken to protect welders and help eliminate the risks they will face throughout their workday. When a hazard cannot be simply eliminated, the safety professionals at OSEA advise removing it through engineering controls. Welding PPE or Personal protective equipment is considered a last resort in areas where this is not possible, but it is critical for protecting employees from exposure and injury caused by known risks. 


Welding PPE: 7 Areas Needed for Safety

Employees performing welding and employees exposed to welding hazards will need a variety of PPE to eliminate the numerous risks that they face on a daily basis. Here are 7 key areas of welding PPE that are needed for the safety of welders.


Eye and Face Protection

A welder’s eyes and face must be shielded from sparks, UV radiation, hot metal, and flying objects. A welding helmet, welding beanie, face shield, safety glasses and/or safety goggles, may all be required to protect a welder’s eyes throughout the day. Employee eye and face protection should meet ANSI Z87.1-1989 standards, and head protection should meet ANSI Z89.1-1986 standards.


welder working

Hand Protection

Hand protection is most likely the most widely used PPE. Throughout the day, a welder deals with sharp objects, flying sparks, and heat. To work comfortably all day, a welder will need a variety of gloves. Welding gloves, cut-resistant gloves, hand shields, and leather gloves all provide different levels of protection against various hazards. 


There are specific ANSI standards for gloves, such as ANSI/ISEA 105 on cut resistance and Arc Flash protection, so glove selection must be based on the glove’s performance characteristics in relation to the tasks being performed. The SDS will list the appropriate protection for chemical exposures.


Skin Protection

Skin protection is also recommended. Welders’ clothing should be made of densely woven cotton or wool, preferably treated with flame-retardant coatings. Acetate, polyester or acrylic clothing (or combinations of these) should not be worn. These are flammable and will melt onto the skin while burning.


Foot Protection

Falling objects, flying sparks, and hot slag must all be avoided by a welder’s feet. The best protection will be provided by closed-toed, leather, high-top shoes. Welding spats and other heat-resistant foot/leg covers can help to protect your feet and legs. Foot protection standards ANSI Z41.1-1991 or ASTM F2413-05 must be met by safety shoes.


Hearing Protection

Hearing protection is commonly required to reduce exposure to welding-related noise hazards. A hearing conservation program must be implemented if employees are exposed to noise hazards that exceed 85 dBA (decibels measured on the A scale of a sound level meter). There is a wide range of earplugs and earmuffs available to provide comfortable hearing protection. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 requires that a hearing conservation program is in place.



Respiratory Protection

Respiratory protection is needed to protect employees from toxic gases, fumes, and/or dust. To quantify the exposure level, air quality testing for the welder’s breathing zone is required. Local exhaust systems, mechanical ventilation, and fume hoods, among other engineering controls, should be used as much as possible to eliminate the risk of exposure. Employers must ensure that their employees are not exposed to toxic fumes, gases, or dust in concentrations that exceed the maximum allowable concentrations specified in 29 CFR 1910.1000. (Toxic and Hazardous Substances). 


The method of protection chosen is determined by the type of exposure and the level of protection required to achieve a safe, breathable environment. Any business that requires its employees to wear respirators.


Individual Booths

The welder should be enclosed in a separate booth. The booth should be made of noncombustible UV-rated screens or curtains. Curtains, booths, and screens should allow for air circulation at the floor level. Workers or other people near welding areas may require UV protective screens or shields, or they may be required to wear appropriate goggles/safety glasses. Welding in the facility may also necessitate a “Hot Work” permit as a fire prevention measure.

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