Page 34 - MetalForming March 2011
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Show Welders You Care
  time, medical expenses and worker compensation.
Like many companies trying to make a profit these days, weld shops are acutely aware of the price of pro- viding the appropriate PPE for employ- ees. The shortage of qualified welders— as older workers retire and fewer young people pursue a career in welding— means that weld shops face increasing pressure to produce more higher-qual- ity welds the first time, every time, with fewer resources.
Thus, as profit margins become squeezed, it’s more important than ever that metalformers select PPE that not only provides adequate protec- tion, but that also helps improve welder productivity. This need for added productivity may be particular- ly important for welders with limited skills, who are more likely to produce defective welds and inhibit overall shop productivity.
Protect and Produce
When evaluating welding helmets for protection and productivity, con- sider the following design and func- tionality features.
• Choose a helmet constructed from lightweight materials, to increase welder comfort.
• Select the appropriate filter shade based on the welding process and amperage. OSHA (29 CFR 1910.252) and the American Welding Society (AWS) offers a Guide for Shade Num- bers (AWS F2.2). The organizations rec- ommend starting with a filter one shade too dark to see the weld zone, and try lighter shades until the welder gains a sufficient view of the weld zone without going below the minimum shade required.
• Whenever radiation or flying par- ticles and spatter are a hazard, select welding helmets that protect the face, forehead, neck and ears. Additional protection may be needed for over- head welding.
• If selecting a welding helmet with an auto-darkening filter (ADF), look for one that has a response-darkening time of 0.4 msec, as the human eye
cannot perceive anything below a millisecond.
• Ensure that the helmet remains seated comfortably on the top of the wearer’s head (not too far back) and stays locked in when in the up position. It should be able to be nodded down gently, but should not fall down if the welder turns his head.
• Look for adjustable headgear that allows the welder to create the most comfortable position for each welding task (looking up vs. looking down) while maintaining a good line of vision.
• Consider the welder’s experience when selecting the size of the viewing field. For example, a smaller viewing area may help inexperienced welders focus better on the weld zone.
• Don’t forget about style. The good news for employers and employees alike is that the safety supply market offers a wide range of helmets with specially designed graphics that let the wearer express his individuality and allow each employee to be instantly recognizable on a crowded shop floor.
ADF vs. Passive Lens Technology
The main cause of eye injury during welding is failing to wear the appro-
priate PPE, so it’s important to select welding helmets that employees will want to wear. This goal likely will lead metalformers to invest in helmets with ADFs rather than passive filters. According to AWS, there are several disadvantages of fixed-shade passive welding helmets.
• Fixed-shade filters only provide reliable protection if they are worn in the down position. Unfortunately, whenever there is no arc the welder must raise his helmet to see, to start a new weld or to inspect a completed weld. This increases the possibility of injury and can cause a welder to keep his helmet up until the arc is started, further increasing the chances of arc- flash injury.
• There is an increased potential for neck injury or muscle strain from con- tinually nodding the helmet up or down.
• It’s harder to see the precise loca- tion of the arc start, causing out-of- position starts that can inhibit pro- ductivity.
AWS also points out some advan- tages of ADFs.
• ADFs allow continuous visibility of the workpiece and arc zone before, during and after striking an arc, and without raising the helmet. This allows welders a better opportunity to achieve a perfect weld the first time, for improved productivity.
• The need for nodding the helmet up or down is eliminated, reducing strain and possible neck injury and reducing the chance for eye injury from flying particles or arc rays.
• Weld starts are likely to be more accurate.
Payback Comes Quickly
Providing welders with the appro- priate ADF welding helmet can help avoid medical and worker’s compen- sation costs associated with acute eye injuries, as well as OSHA fines. But it also can help avoid costs associated with longer-term injuries, specifically “welder’s neck,” which may result from poor posture while welding or by con- tinual nodding as required with fixed- shade helmets.
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