Do you have everything you need to get to work on your industrial site or home welding project? Flame-resistant clothing, gloves, respiratory protection, and eye and face protection? A lot of this protection can be provided by a welding hood (or a welding helmet), and you shouldn’t go near any welding equipment without one.
Your welding hood should keep light out of your eyes if you’re taking care of it properly, using it properly, have it fitted well, and have made any appropriate adjustments for your job where possible. You can tell if your hood isn’t working properly if you see a very bright flash when you start welding: this could mean that a weaker protective lens is in place in a passive hood, or that the shading, delay, or sensitivity is set too low in an auto-darkening lens. Whichever the case is, the sudden flash of light has exceeded the helmet’s protective capabilities, and this needs to be fixed sooner rather than later. The fix is to switch your lighter lens for a darker one or make adjustments to the lens, depending on the type of helmet you’re using.
Of course, it’s best to make the adjustments and test your welding hood before you ever have to use it on the job. Testing an auto-darkening hood requires a powerful light source, which is actually surprisingly easy to come by. Before you take the helmet to work with you, test it by putting it on and turning your head to face the sun—the light from the sun should trigger the darkening effect if the hood is working properly. Some models of auto-darkening helmets might come with a “test” mode integrated into the lens as an alternative means of testing.
Welding hoods provide protection for a welder’s face and eyes. The act of welding metal produces a lot of hazards for worker safety: torch and plasma cutting give off intense infrared and ultraviolet lights, harmful metal fumes are produced, and flying sparks and debris are very common no matter what kind of metal or welding tools you’re using. Some welding jobs have extra risk from flying objects, ultraviolet radiation, respiratory hazards, and heat, depending on what you’re working with and where you’re working.
In order to be used in the United States, welding hoods must meet the ANSI Z87.1 standard (our Canadian friends use CAN/CSA Z94.3) for eye and face protection. Welding hoods also need to work with all of your other PPE in order to make sure that you’re fully protected from job hazards like spatter, impact forces, and ergonomic injury. No matter how simple or complex your welding hood is, they’re all secured to the head with an adjustable harness that fits around the crown. If the shield isn’t fixed in place, it’s attached to the harness in a way that can be worn above the face for visibility or fall forward to protect the face when it’s time to get to work.
Passive welding hoods have a hard plastic helmet shell and a fixed shade that remains dark at all times. They’re durable, protective, and relatively inexpensive as protection goes. Because they’re very inflexible and can be difficult to see through in some conditions, they can be harder to use than some more expensive alternatives. Constant lifting or flipping of the helmet up and down can cause neck strain, and this movement can be difficult in some areas. Newer welders might also have difficulties with their welds due to not being able to see what they’re working on as well—a lens that’s continuously dark can’t lighten up enough to allow you to see.
Auto-darkening hoods are more advanced options that will adjust themselves in a fraction of a second to bright light conditions. They can be set up before use with the worker’s preferred specifications so that they’re constantly ready to work. Because the helmet can become lighter in some situations, workers will have an easier time seeing what they’re doing without needing to constantly lift or adjust the lens. They’ll work faster, with less neck strain, and fewer adjustments. Naturally, however, they can get pricier—although we’re willing to help you look for options that offer the protection you need within your budget.
All kinds of industries have been using welding hoods for years, so clearly there’s a benefit to wearing them. Other than being made of molded plastics instead of leather and other technological advances, welding hoods really haven’t changed that much in the last 50 years. Because of these advances, though, today’s helmets are even better than the ones from years past, as they now have the technology to provide more features, greater comfort, a better fit, and flexibility for today’s workers that wouldn’t have been possible years back. Who knows what the future will bring?
Welding hoods absolutely work and have protected so many workers across industries for decades. Even a passive helmet, a very simple tool, is better protection than nothing at all, and for some jobs, you just don’t need all of the bells and whistles that an auto-darkening welding hood might provide.