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What are Welding Helmets?

Welding helmets are vital safety gear designed to protect your eyes and face from harmful radiation and debris while welding. They feature darkened lenses that shield against intense light and can auto-darken upon arc detection. Ensuring proper protection, they're a welder's first line of defense. Curious about how they've evolved to enhance safety and comfort? Let's delve deeper into the world of welding helmets.
S. Mithra
S. Mithra

Welding helmets are headgear that protect the face, neck, and eyes from dangerous sparks, heat, and infrared and ultraviolet rays emitted when welding. The two main parts to a welding helmet are the protective helmet itself and the window through which you can see what you are doing. You should choose a welding helmet based on the quality of this light filter, called a lens shade, overall comfort, and multifunctionality.

Both professional and hobbyist welders need a high quality welding helmet that is easy to use and appropriate for their type of work. In the past, it sufficed to use a helmet-like shield that only covered the face with a permanently darkened lens shade. One would flip up and down this shield between welds. It was inconvenient, difficult to see what one was doing, and hard to use in cramped spaces, such as underneath a car. Now technology has made welding helmets with auto-darkening lens shades that always block 100% of infrared and ultraviolet light, but also filter visible light from the welding arc only during welding.

A person welding while wearing a welding helmet.
A person welding while wearing a welding helmet.

The view screen is the most important and most expensive part of a welding helmet. It has a darkness rating or range that corresponds to the energy output on your welding torch. For welders who work with the same amperage and the same metal, they can go with a "fixed" eyeshade. For those who are working with a wide variety, variable lens shields sense what you are welding and darken to the right shade.

A closeup of welding.
A closeup of welding.

Another rating for auto-darkening lenses is the time it takes them to darken after an arc has begun. It's safe to use welding helmets that darken within 4/10ths of a millisecond, since your eye cannot sense the light change in that time. Some helmets are powered by batteries that can be used indoors, but must be charged. Other varieties use sunlight, good for outdoors, but aren't compatible with the dark. Of course, you also want a lens that is large enough for you to have an ample field of view.

Welding goggles.
Welding goggles.

Other considerations are how the welding helmet looks, as there are models with interesting shapes, decals, and colors. Some kinds can be fitted with accessories, such as breathing filters that pipe in fresh air and reduce fogging. Others have removable view screens, so you can upgrade or switch them according to your needs. Welding helmets also significantly reduce a welder's risk for cancer.

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Discussion Comments


@Jonrss - I completely agree. I had a good buddy that fired up an arc welder when he wasn't wearing a helmet with blinders. He ended up doing permanent damage to his eyes and even had to undergo surgery to help repair some of the damage. It was really a sad story because he is a great guy and everything happened so quickly. I know from unfortunate personal experience that you should always were the proper protection


This article does a good job of stressing the importance of welding helmets. Let me just second that notion.

It is absolutely imperative that anyone undertaking a welding project wear a welding helmet. This is not just me being hyper safe or being nervous about consequences. Welding is an extremely dangerous activity that is also very unpredictable. Even an experienced welder can get into some pretty gruesome accidents.

A welding helmet is not a guarantee that nothing will go wrong but it is a good start. There is no reason not to take every safety measure when you are working with this much heat.

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    • A person welding while wearing a welding helmet.
      By: Laurentiu Iordache
      A person welding while wearing a welding helmet.
    • A closeup of welding.
      By: david gartland
      A closeup of welding.
    • Welding goggles.
      By: mbongo
      Welding goggles.
    • Welding helmets are worn to protect the face, neck, and eyes from the sparks, heat, and UV and infrared rays produced when welding.
      By: cbphoto
      Welding helmets are worn to protect the face, neck, and eyes from the sparks, heat, and UV and infrared rays produced when welding.