Safety with Style: Tips for Choosing the Right Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet
by Jamy Bulan, Commercial Equipment Product Manager, The Lincoln Electric Company
A welding helmet is one of the most important pieces of personal protective equipment a welder can have. A good helmet protects the eyes and skin not only from severe sparks but also from potentially vision-damaging ultraviolet and infrared rays emitted by the arc.
As one of the most visible pieces of safety attire, a welding helmet also gives wearers an opportunity to add a bit of personal flair to their welding gear. With this is mind, welding helmets today are available in a wide range of colors and graphics. These visual features obviously command attention, but a helmet’s protective features, combined with comfort considerations are what welders should consider when selecting the right helmet for their needs.
Serious professional welders should consider using more advanced auto-darkening helmets 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 a 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 a down position, so that setting up to weld in a weldment joint can be done with the hood in position. These helmets permit more continuous work, reducing unnecessary stop-and-start time and the need for a welder to readjust a helmet and set up positioning.
So what are the most important factors to consider when selecting an auto-darkening helmet that is safe, comfortable and functional? Safety. Comfort. Convenience. Style. There are a number of general selection considerations that will help welders choose a helmet that best meets their needs, as well as find one that wears comfortably all day on the job.
When assessing various auto-darkening helmets, look for models that have a full-coverage shell that sheds spatter and resists impact. The helmet’s viewing size also is a major factor to consider. While it is based on preference, the amount of out-of-position welding performed can affect the amount of viewing area needed in a helmet. Some of the largest view sizes in auto-darkening models have a view size that measures 97x 62 mm (3.82 x 2.44 inches) or larger, which aids in delivering a clear natural view in combination with the helmet’s LCD technology.
Also, count the number of arc sensors on the helmet. Basic and less expensive auto-darkening helmets will have one or two arc sensors, while premium models generally have four arc sensors. With more arc sensors, there is less chance that the helmet will fail to darken as necessary.
Also, note that auto-darkening helmets will feature either external or internal controls for functions like shade or grind control. The external controls add convenience, allowing some adjustments to be made while the helmet is on the head. On the other hand, external controls include additional wiring and can be exposed to additional impacts or damage as they are positioned on the outside of the helmet. Internal controls positioned on the lens cartridge are more protected and do not require external wiring. However, almost every adjustment will require removing the helmet to change settings.