Blinding bright light, extreme heat, electromagnetic radiation, hazardous fumes and gases. To most people, this sounds like the start of the apocalypse. To a welder, it sounds like a regular day at work.

Welding is an intense activity that offers you a smorgasbord of ways to hurt yourself. Pretty much every part of your body is exposed to danger, from your eyes to your little toes and even your lungs and heart.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required for welding is equally intense. The gear from last century made you look like a character out of Silent Hill.

Old school welding gear

Welder or serial killer?
Image Credit: United States Library of Congress

Modern PPE is designed to give you more comfort, more visibility and less creepiness.

Before you start welding

First up, you should be working in an environment where the risks involved with welding have been minimised. Your PPE should form part of an overall Workplace Health and Safety (WH&S) plan designed specifically for welding. Work Safe Australia’s Code of Practice for welders contains all the information you need on setting up a WH&S plan.

Your PPE should also be comfortable and fit you well. Poor fitting or inappropriate PPE can put you at risk of:

  • overheating;
  • musculoskeletal injuries;
  • accidents or injuries resulting from reduced hearing and/or visual capacity.

The rest of the world already sees your job as apocalyptic. No sense in adding to the hazards.

PPE for welding

The following table provides a comprehensive overview of the PPE recommended for welders and the reasons you should use it.

Welding PPE table

Image Credit: Work Safe Australia

Other things to consider when welding

Regardless of whether you are the operator or not, you need to protect yourself. The effects of radiation depend on the type of machine being used, the intensity, your distance from it and how long you were exposed.

Keep in mind also, the effects of infra-red and ultraviolet radiation may not be felt immediately. Just because you’re not feeling anything, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be protecting yourself.

Welder’s flash can repair itself in a couple of days but you need medical treatment to ensure the cornea doesn’t become infected. Infection can lead to permanent vision loss.

Plasma arc welding tends to produce the greatest noise levels, ranging from 98 to 112 dB(A). Ear protection is imperative.

If you have any installed medical devices, like a pacemaker or permanent defibrillator, do not undertake electric arc welding without first seeking medical advice. The electromagnetic fields produced by welding can interfere with your device. Not something worth taking chances with.

When it comes to your workshop, your welding rig, and all related equipment, it is vital to ensure everything is properly installed, maintained, tested and repaired (when necessary).

And finally, this isn’t Australian but it is weird and relevant (our favourite combination), so here you go:

What are the Australian Safety Standards for Welding Gear?
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What are the Australian Safety Standards for Welding Gear?
Welding offers you a smorgasbord of ways to hurt yourself. And the PPE is as intense as the job itself. We take you through the Aussie legal requirements.
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