Welding is a safe practice for both professionals and hobbyists alike - as long as the correct safety precautions are followed when doing so.



While gloves, clothing and footwear are all important, having the correct welding helmet is arguably the most integral piece of safety equipment.  



With so many different types of helmets and models available, it’s important to take the time to carefully choose the right option for your specific needs.



READ: Benefits of Auto-Darkening Helmets



SAFETY STANDARDS



The first consideration when choosing a helmet for welding is ensuring it is compliant with all Australian safety standards.



The helmet you choose should meet Australian Standards AS/NZS 1338.1 (Auto-Darkening) and AS/NZS 1337.1 B (High Impact).



This ensures that the helmet and lens has passed independent testing and can survive high impact from flying objects, provide 100% ultraviolet and infrared filtering regardless of shade setting, and meet advertised switching speeds and darkness shades in temperatures as low as -5 degrees and high as 55 degrees.




Welding Helmet




MANUAL v AUTOMATIC HELMETS



Traditional Fixed Lens Helmets



Despite the prevalence of auto-darkening helmets on the market, some welders still prefer more traditional helmets with a traditional glass lens and a fixed shade that remains darkened at all times.



While these helmets do provide rugged and inexpensive safety protection, they also have a few disadvantages.



Welding helmets featuring a fixed shade can create difficulties and discomfort on a number of levels, especially over an extended period of time. A welder has to lift the helmet every time he or she wants to examine the weld and joint, set his position and prepare for welding, and then flip the helmet back down again when it’s time to strike the arc. This repetitive movement can lead to neck strain and fatigue after a full day’s work. In addition, in tight or restricted spaces, it can be difficult to move the helmet up or down.



Auto-Darkening Helmets



Regardless of the welding process or how often you might switch from one application to another, it’s worthwhile considering an auto-darkening helmet with continuously variable controls that adjust the shade from a light state to a dark one and back.

These helmets protect from harmful light emissions at all times and darken to almost any pre-selected shade in milliseconds, thanks to quick-changing LCD (liquid crystal display) technology in the auto-darkening cartridges.



With auto-darkening helmets, welders can see clearly while the helmet is already in the down position, so that setting up to weld a joint can be done with the hood in position. These helmets permit more continuous work, reducing the need for frequent stops, readjustments, repositioning and restarts.



Click Here for Gasweld's Range of Welding Helmets



LIGHT SENSITIVITY



Welding lens shade numbers refer to the lens' ability to filter light. All auto-darkening welding helmets that meet the Australian standard AS/NZS 1338.1 provide 100% protection against harmful infrared and UV rays and may range from a #8 shade for low-amp applications up to a #13 shade for high-amp applications.



When inactive, an auto-darkening lens usually has a #3 or #4 shade, which is relatively easy to see through. When the sensors on the helmet sense an arc start, the lens automatically darkens, in a fraction of a second (typically 1/12,000 to 1/20,000 of a second for industrial-grade helmets), to shade #8 to #13. Because the helmet stays in position before, during, and after the weld, an auto-darkening welding helmet allows you to set up your welding joint with the hood in position. 



Conversely, a passive lens helmet uses UV- and IR-coated dark-tinted glass with a fixed shade value, usually #10.  This helmet is worn in the up position while the electrode, gun or torch is positioned. With a quick nod or snap of the neck, the operator flips the helmet into position immediately before striking an arc. It can be difficult for novice welders to position the electrode while the helmet snaps into place. This can cause poor weld starts, which may lead to weld defects or the need for excessive grinding.




Welding Light Chart



COMFORT



One of the most commonly overlooked features when choosing a helmet, the size and weight of a helmet can have a huge impact on the users’ overall comfort and productivity when welding.



With continual ‘ups and downs’ and repetitive movements in welding, a heavy helmet can cause significant issues with regards to fatigue and muscle strain.

Newer, lighter helmets can help improve the safety and productivity of a welder, along with the obvious bonus of additional comfort.



While it can often be tempting to purchase a cheaper model in the short-term, frequent welders should consider the long-term impact a lighter helmet will have on their work and health.