Airing out welding safety concerns

Employers who are serious about workplace safety simply don't skimp when choosing respiratory protection for their welding professionals. Deborah Adamson* writes.

Employers who are serious about workplace safety simply don’t skimp when choosing respiratory protection for their welding professionals. Deborah Adamson* writes.

PART of every employer’s responsibility is to ensure their employees have safe working conditions. For the welding profession, this means being provided with the right eye and head protection.

Employers who are serious about workplace safety and protection simply don’t skimp when it comes to protection for their welding professionals. Without the right eye and head protection, serious eye injuries and respiratory injuries can result.

A high quality auto-darkening helmet is a must for any welder, but sometimes the environment demands the use of a welding respirator.

The reality is that welding processes generate fumes containing gaseous mixtures of elements and airborne metal and dust particulate. While products present in welding fumes can cause mild to chronic irritation, some can be potentially more serious to a worker’s health.

It is up to the employer to assess the requirements specific to their environment and provide the adequate protection for welding professionals working in the environment.

It is also essential for employers to ensure the right respiratory protection is used in welding environments.

When making the assessment of which welding respiratory protection product to select, there are a few elements that must be considered.

Firstly, going with a well-known brand name will provide the confidence that you are purchasing a high quality product that has been thoroughly tested to ensure it performs at its peak and meets required Australian standards.

Secondly, full head and throat protection is essential to ensure a breathing capsule is created, offering a positive atmosphere of clean air and less than 1% inward leakage.

Most high quality respirator units will offer high and low settings for air flow, giving a choice of 160LPM or 200LPM, and enabling the operator to switch between the two to suit the environment and the job. This will provide the maximum protection for the operator.

When welding for long periods of time, comfort becomes a major issue, especially when working in tight spaces. When selecting a welding respirator, a lightweight unit is a must, as is an ergonomic harness and belt system to ensure that the weight of the unit is balanced on the operator’s back.

This provides maximum user comfort by limiting neck and back strain when welding for long periods of time, and limits time wasted in adjusting units that come only with a waist belt.

Another must is built-in audible and vibrating alarms. It is vital that the operator be alerted to any blockage that has occurred in the unit.

The better quality units combine an audible beep, visible flashing LED and mechanical vibration to ensure that the operator is alerted in even the noisiest of working environments.

To provide the most flexibility, welding respiratory units selected should incorporate a welding, cutting and grinding mode. This will enable the unit’s sensors to be adjusted for the type of work being performed.

For instance, when in grind mode, the unit will switch off the sensors completely, enabling the protection to be maintained, but avoiding troublesome false activities of the lens.

Four independent sensors, a lithium ion battery, adjustable delay and sensitivity settings and high quality P2 filters come as standard with good quality welding respirators.

*Deborah Adamson is the National Marketing Manager of Welding Industries of Australia. For more information phone 1300 300 884 or visit www.welding.com.au.