Welders face countless risks when carrying out their work. These include vision damage, burns, hearing loss, and even death. All of these can be prevented by ensuring you have the best welding helmet for your needs.
But with so many helmets on the market, how do you know which is right for you?
Today, we’ll explore some of the key factors you should consider when choosing a welding helmet. Of course, the best options vary from person to person. As such, it’s crucial to take into account the type of welding you do, as well as your own personal preferences.
With that in mind, here’s what you should look out for when choosing a welding helmet.
Best Welding Helmets: Fixed Shade vs Auto Darkening
The first thing to understand is that there are two broad types of welding helmet. These are:
- Fixed shade welding helmets – Also known as passive welding helmets, these offer the same level of vision protection regardless of how much light is created by your arc or other nearby light sources.
- Auto darkening welding helmets – By contrast, auto darkening helmets respond to the light created by your arc. This means that you receive the optimum vision protection, without sacrificing your ability to see in lower light conditions.
Fixed shade helmets are generally cheaper and more lightweight. These are a great option if you generally always weld on the same material, with the same torch strength. However, for less repetitive work, auto darkening helmets are usually best.
How to Choose an Auto Darkening Helmet
When using an auto darkening helmet, you can adjust the sensitivity, delay time and shade of the lens. This essentially allows you to control how dark your lens gets, and how it responds to changes in light levels.
However, there are a couple of extra features you should look out for.
The best welding helmets also offer memory settings. That way, you can create presets for each kind of project, rather than manually dialling in your desired settings as you move between jobs.
Whether or not it’s worth paying extra for a helmet with memory presets depends on your needs. For instance, if you only ever weld in your workshop, this may not be necessary. If you work in different environments, it’s probably worth the investment.
It’s also important to consider the number of sensors on your helmet. The cheapest auto darkening helmets usually have two sensors, while high end ones have as many as four.
With too few sensors, you can suffer vision damage as a result of your shade level being reduced when one sensor becomes blocked. Additional sensors eliminate this risk. When tig welding, a 4 sensor automatic welding helmet is the better choice.
You should also consider how your auto darkening helmet is powered. Different helmets have a variety of different types of batteries. Many also feature solar panels, which is very useful for outdoor welding.
Do you Need an Air Fed Welding Helmet?
Welders are also exposed to harmful fumes and gases throughout their working day. These can cause long-term lung damage, as well as more immediate harm. Depending on your working environment, there are a number of ways these risks can be mitigated.
For example, if you work in a single location, the best solution might be a workbench with built-in extraction.
However, if you work indoors, but frequently need to move around, the best welding helmet for you will need to provide respiratory protection. This is known as an air fed welding helmet.
Essentially, these are welding helmets with built in respirators. They provide a constant stream of safe clean air, via a filtration system which is worn on your back.
Choosing a Welding Helmet which Fits
While the primary purpose of a welding helmet is to protect your face, head and vision, it’s also important to think about comfort. There are a number of reasons for this. For one thing, you’re going to be wearing your helmet for a large proportion of the working day.
There’s no sense causing yourself unnecessary discomfort.
There are also less obvious reasons why a comfortable helmet is vital. For example, when your helmet doesn’t fit properly, it may be more tempting to perform small jobs without wearing it correctly.
This creates avoidable risk to you and your colleagues.
A welding helmet fits correctly if it is tight enough that it doesn’t move around, but not so tight that it’s uncomfortable. It should also click into place easily with a quick snap of your neck.
Is a Lighter Welding Helmet Better?
Some of the most common occupational hazards faced by welders relate to back, neck and shoulder pain. At the best of times, these can cause short term annoyance or discomfort. However, they can also develop into longer term problems.
They can also be prevented with the right welding helmet.
Again, you need to consider your particular needs here in order to choose the best welding helmet for you.
For example, if welding is your primary task, it’s normally worth investing in the most lightweight helmet you can afford. As a rule of thumb, the longer you spend wearing your helmet, the lighter it should be.
This prevents you from developing injuries like strains and RSIs in your neck and shoulders.
However, lighter helmets typically come at a premium. If you only weld occasionally or for shorter periods of time, the weight of your helmet may be less of a priority.
What is the Perfect Viewing Area?
To some extent, this is a matter of personal preference. Obviously, a welding helmet with a large viewing area offers greater visibility. Increased peripheral vision can be useful to maintain safety in a busy workplace.
However, some people find that this is an unnecessary distraction, and that a narrower field of vision makes it easier to focus.
In that sense, the best welding helmet viewing area depends on a combination of your working habits and your needs.
Choosing a Welding Helmet: Reliability
Beyond safety and comfort, the next thing to consider is the reliability of your welding helmet. Like any other tool, a helmet is an investment. You need to have confidence that it will work properly long into the future.
The best way to do this is to purchase from a specialist welding supplier, rather than a generic online shop. You should also be wary about buying a second hand welding helmet, as you won’t receive a warranty this way.
Purchasing from a dedicated welding shop also gives you the option to seek out expert advice on which welding helmet is best for your needs.