Safety First: Finding the Right PPE for Your Needs 

June 2024

Welding is a highly technical and precise profession, and success starts and ends with safety. As a cornerstone of the profession, safety is something that must be applied and adhered to every single day. Finding ways to reduce safety risks and enhance compliance is critical to creating a safer welding environment — and using proper personal protective equipment (PPE) is the first step. From your head to your feet, the right PPE will keep you safe, comfortable, and compliant. 

A Twofold Approach to Helmet Safety 

Wearing a helmet is an absolute must. Sparks, spatters, and bright light are par for the course when welding, making the right headgear an essential piece of PPE. Helmets safeguard operators from harmful UV radiation, infrared light, and flying debris. Even so, you still need to see well enough to lay a clean weld. There are two common styles of welding helmets that determine the amount of light that’s visible before, during, and after welding: passive and autodarkening. 

Passive helmets have a dark-tinted lens and remain dark — there’s no switching from light to dark state. To inspect the weld, removing the helmet is necessary. Auto-darkening helmets, however, adjust the shades based on different welding processes and applications. When the helmet is in the down position, you’ll be able to see through a light lens for clear evaluation of the weld piece. Once an arc is struck, the helmet automatically darkens for optimum safety.   

Next, a less obvious component of helmet safety, but arguably as important, is comfort. A properly designed welding helmet offers greater protection against issues such as eye injuries and long-term musculoskeletal injuries in the neck and back muscles. Additionally, a helmet that has a sizable viewing area and an auto-darkening lens reduces eye strain when looking at the weld joint. It also minimizes the need for nodding associated with putting passive or traditional welding helmets in place by using a forward neck motion. Choosing a helmet that provides the necessary protection against workplace hazards while also allowing the ability to weld with minimal restraint is important.  

Since welding helmets do not provide unlimited eye, ear, and face protection, it is also necessary to wear approved safety glasses with side shields under your helmet. 

A Clearer Look at Helmet Clarity for Improved Welds 

Using a welding helmet that provides optimal clarity is key because it will determine how well you can see and work. Visibility shouldn’t be taken for granted, and with so many welding helmet options on the market, it can be difficult to understand how different lenses and their clarity ratings will affect time on the job. 

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulates how clarity is measured in welding helmets and provides an ANSI marking to indicate compliance to the safety standards. Some manufacturers also apply the European Standards (EN) ratings of optical quality to auto-darkening lenses, although these ratings are not required in the United States.

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The right helmet provides the right protection and allows the operator to weld without restraint.


If you want to find the welding helmet that truly gives you the best clarity in the United States, try the following: 

• First, look for a helmet with the highest percentage clarity rating within the safe limits of the light transmittance test in ANSI Z87.1, American National Standard for Occupational and Educational Personal Eye and Face Protection Devices, when the lens is in the light and dark states. 

• Second, ensure that your environment is well lit. If it is not, seek to enhance lighting conditions, either by integrating solutions into the welding helmet or as a stand-alone fix to help improve visibility.  

• Third, to get the clearest view, ensure you are using high-quality, ANSI manufacturer-certified magnifying lenses and cover lenses. 

• Last, if provided, look for the optical clarity ratings with the EN standard. The first three (1/1/1/x) are the most important because they directly impact welding 100% of the time. The fourth rating (x/x/x/1) is less prevalent in welding operations. 

Enhance Safety and Compliance with Respiratory Protection  

Weld fume is part and parcel of welding, making it important to shield a welder’s breathing zone from inhaling anything hazardous. Increased awareness of weld fume issues and safe environmental conditions continues to support the value of implementing proper respiratory protection in conjunction with a well-designed helmet. Powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) and supplied air respirators (SARs) are more-advanced air purification systems used during the welding process. They both use a complete facepiece (e.g., hood helmet or mask) that’s connected to a unit that delivers clean air into the breathing zone. Whereas traditional respirators rely on lung power to draw air through the filters, PAPR systems use a battery-powered fan that pushes air through the filters and delivers clean air to the user. A SAR delivers clean air from an external source, like an air tank.

Outfitting Yourself for Safety 

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The right PPE will keep you safe, comfortable, and compliant. 


Welding is a full-body job, and with so much emphasis on above-the-neck safety, it’s also important to remember to protect everything else from the neck down. Beyond helmets and PAPRs and SARs, these PPE categories should also be prioritized. 

• Clothing: Short sleeves, shorts, and other clothing that exposes the skin to sparks and spatter must be left in your closet. Flame-resistant pants and long-sleeve shirts and jackets made from leather or heavy cotton mitigate burns by shielding skin from direct contact with hot metal or sparks. 

• Footwear: Sandals, tennis shoes, and other cloth options leave feet susceptible to catching sparks, which can then smolder. High-top leather shoes or steel-toed boots are a must for welding. 

• Gloves: Operators need to not only protect their hands but also retain full dexterity to complete welding tasks. Gloves need to marry protection and comfort to safeguard hands against burns, cuts, and electric shock. It’s wise to opt for flame-resistant (and cut-resistant, as needed) hand protection when welding or handling welding materials. 


On-the-job protection takes many forms, and each piece of safety gear contributes to providing the safest work environment possible. The right PPE should match the job at hand, deliver all-day comfort, and maximize efficiency.