UNITED STATES - CIRCA 1951: Closeup of a welder wearing a mask. (Photo by Andreas Feininger/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images). The location of this image is United States. Copyright: Time & Life Pictures
Welding helmets are headgear used when performing certain types of welding to protect the eyes, face and neck from flash burn, ultraviolet light , sparks , infrared light , and heat. Most commonly used with arc welding processes such as shielded metal arc welding , gas tungsten arc welding , and gas metal arc welding . Welding helmets are necessary to prevent arc eye , a painful condition where the cornea is inflamed. Welding helmets can also prevent retina burns, which can lead to a loss of vision. Both conditions are caused by unprotected exposure to the highly-concentrated ultraviolet and infrared rays emitted by the welding arc. Ultraviolet emissions from the welding arc can also damage uncovered skin, causing a sunburn-like condition in a relatively short period of welding. The modern welding helmet used today was first introduced in 1937 by Willson Products.
All welding helmets include a window covered with a filter called a lens shade, through which the welder can see to work. In most helmets, the window may be made of tinted glass, tinted plastic, or a variable-density filter made from a pair of polarised lenses. Recently helmets have been developed that use an electronic LCD shutter that darkens automatically when exposed to the bright welding arc so the welder can see to work under normal ambient light while wearing the helmet. With the development of electronic auto-darkening helmets, the welder no longer has to get ready to weld and then nod their head to lower the helmet over their face. However, these electronic auto-darkening helmets are significantly more expensive.
All welding helmets are susceptible to damages such as cracks that can compromise the protection from ultraviolet and infrared rays. In addition to protecting the eyes, the helmet protects the face from hot metal sparks generated by the arc and from UV damage. When overhead welding a leather skull cap and shoulder cover are used to prevent head and shoulder burns.
In the United States, the industry standard for welding helmets is ANSI Z87.1 which specifies performance of a wide variety of eye protection devices. The standard requires that auto-darkening helmets provide full protection against both UV and IR even when they are not in the darkened state. The standard is voluntary, so buyers should confirm that the helmet is ANSI Z87.1 compliant (indicated by appropriate labelling).
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