Choosing the Right Welding Screen or Curtain
Many factors must be considered when choosing a semitransparent welding screen or curtain for protecting workers near the welding operation from harmful UV and blue light radiation. Here are some tips on how to choose the right one.
Screens or Curtains?
Welding screens are typically made from semitransparent vinyl (PVC) material that is fixed on a portable frame and can be easily moved around the workspace and repositioned if necessary. It is also possible to configure welding screens in a three- or four-sided configuration so that other than a small doorway, the welding operation is completely enclosed. These screens are available in a variety of sizes and shapes and are commonly used on construction sites or mobile welding operations, although many welding shops and manufacturing facilities also prefer the flexibility provided by screens.
Welding curtains are typically suspended from a frame or the ceiling through mounting holes. One type of welding curtain is the vinyl grommeted curtain, which is attached to a frame, fence, or other structure using the grommeted holes around the edge of the vinyl material. There is also the welding strip curtain that consists of a series of overlapping PVC strips, which can be mounted semipermanently on a structure or from the ceiling. Many permanent welding booths are constructed using curtains because they are expected to be stationary.
A screen that is too small for the work area may not provide adequate protection, while a screen that is too large may be difficult to maneuver. Consider the portability of the screen, especially if it needs to be moved frequently.
Welding screens can be made from a variety of materials, including vinyl (PVC) or polycarbonate. The vast majority of welding screens and curtains are made from vinyl because they are comparatively affordable, lightweight, flexible, scratch resistant, and easy to clean.
Look for a screen that has been tested and certified to meet safety standards set by regulatory bodies, such as OSHA and ANSI. In the United States, the relevant ANSI safety standard for welding screens and curtains is AWS F2.3M:2019, Specification for Use and Performance of Transparent Welding Curtains and Screens. This standard was developed by scientists and safety experts to certify that curtains and screens provide proper optical protection against UV and blue light radiation and pass specific antiflammability tests. To be compliant with this standard, manufacturers must certify the right levels of optical and flame protection in an independent laboratory and mark the screen or curtain with AWS F2.3M:2019, the manufacturer’s name, and the date of manufacture. An AWS F2.3-compliant welding screen or curtain can help ensure the safety of workers and prevent workplace accidents.
When choosing a color for a welding screen or curtain, it is important to consider the specific welding application and the environment in which it will be used. Choosing the right color can help improve visibility and reduce eye strain, which can improve the overall safety and quality of the welding process.
Welding screens and curtains are categorized in four grades: light (L), medium (M), dark (D), and extra dark (ED).
Yellow welding screens and curtains are the clearest grades and normally graded L. They are often used for indoor welding applications and allow more light into the welding booth. This allows for a clearer view of the operation for external supervision and safety considerations and allows the welder to feel less confined inside. Yellow welding screens are not recommended in situations in which people nearby will be continuously exposed to visible light coming from the welding operations. These high levels of light transmission through a yellow screen or curtain can disturb and inconvenience bystanders after several hours of exposure.
Bronze or green welding screens and curtains which are typically grade D, are a good option when you are looking to offer the maximum comfort for people near welding operations with a very low level of visible light coming through the material. While supervision through these curtains is not as easy as supervision through yellow curtains, it is still possible to ensure that the welder is still operating the equipment, upright on their feet, and not having a medical emergency behind the welding screen or curtain.
Blue screens and curtains are not suitable for welding. While they are sometimes marketed as welding screens, they don’t provide adequate protection against blue light radiation. Because they are blue, they cannot meet welding safety standards.
Red welding screens and curtains, which are usually grade M, will stop more visible light from coming through but retain some transparency. These are popular because they strike a good compromise of maintaining supervision without disturbing others nearby.
Grade ED welding screens and curtains, such as Shade 8 or matte green, are suitable when no direct supervision is needed. This grade is typically used as a partition between two welders’ booths. These screens and curtains will only allow some partial welding light through the screen to indicate to people nearby that there is a welding operation in progress. These grades are often used between welders so they can know the neighboring welder is welding without being disturbed by his or her light.
Consider the level of protection needed, material, visibility, size, portability, and compliance with safety standards when choosing a welding screen or curtain. With the right protective equipment, workers can work safely and efficiently without compromising visibility or comfort.
This article was submitted by the AWS Safety and Health Committee.