Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for Welders
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Hi, I'm Jill. Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA Inspector and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards. For this series, we're at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in the heart of the Upper Midwest to show you, no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone.
Not only is welding a skilled trade in high demand, it's an occupation where the welder needs to have nearly every type of personal protective equipment available for use depending on the type of work they're doing on any given day. Today I'm joined by Jeff, who's a welder here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative, and your job is a very highly skilled job, Jeff. What are the different types of welding that you do here at the plant?
We do arc welding which is with the stick electrode, wire feed welding, and we do some TIG welding on stainless.
Okay. And you're not just locked down in an actual weld shop throughout your work day are you?
No, no, we get to go out in the factory and we get to see some pretty different situations.
So you have a weld shop, but that's not exclusively where you do your work. You take your welders and your gear with you when you have to go do certain types of activities.
Yep, that's right.
Okay. And so depending on where you're going and what materials you're welding on and the type of welding you're doing, you have to know which personal protective equipment do I need to protect myself.
Let's start with your welding helmet. When do you wear it, how do you wear it, how does it work?
You wear it any time you strike an architecture.
And it's to protect your eyes.
Right. This is an auto darkening hood. It means I can leave it down, I can still kind of see what I'm doing if I've got to move around and tack different things together. Soon as you strike the arc, it darkens. You can set it. There's delays, there's all that kind of stuff. You can set it your preference.
Sure. And so auto darkening means the second that arc starts, your eye protection starts as well.
There's a real small window on there. You don't even notice it really.
What about your hard hat? When do you wear the hard hat?
We wear our hard hats when we have our grinding shields on. That's the clear shield to cover your eyes for your eye protection when you're using a grinder. Cutting, grinding, whatever you're doing. And we have darker cutting shields for torching and using a shield.
Makes sense. Let's talk about your hearing protection. When do you use hearing protection and why do you use it?
We wear ours all the time out here because it's loud enough out there where you need it. And I use it to, well, protect your hearing, obviously, and then I also use to protect my ears from slag or anything rolling into your ears when you're welding.
So it's protecting your ear from things going into it as well as protecting it from noise.
And then what about just regular safety glasses? I bet you go between safety glasses and your welding helmet as well.
I wear them the same time.
At the same time. So you're wearing your ...
My glasses are on all the time.
Okay. So you're safety glasses are worn under you helmet. And then, tell us about this welding jacket. What's special about this welding jacket?
It's flame resistant. Fire resistant.
This one is a dual purpose one. This one's got the high vis, because we are required to wear that anytime we're outside moving around.
So it's got the retro reflective and the color that we're looking for, and you can't burn it.
And that's different than this welding jacket. What's special about this welding jacket?
This is exactly like this except it's not high vis.
So it's fire retardant.
Okay. Very good. And then, these are your welding gloves, so why do you choose this kind and what do they protect you from?
We have a couple different style out here, but this is the style I choose. They're lighter. they're easier to work with if you've got to do nuts, bolts, use your hands.
So you have more dexterity.
Okay. But you can also weld with them on?
And they protect your hands from burns.
Because they're leather. What about a respirator? When would you wear a respirator as a welder?
When you're doing anything with stainless, anything with galvanized, because there's chemicals in it that can make you sick.
Sure, like hexavalent chromium when you're welding on stainless.
Okay. And so you'd have to pick the right kind of respirator. And then, this respirator, I hear also has a fire retardant coating on it so that you can't burn it as well.
So another thing for a welder to think about.
In addition to the fact that if you're going to need to wear a respirator today, you'd have to cut your beard.
So that you can have a nice, tight seal on your face, and then you'd wear the respirator under your helmet.
Correct. Okay. Very good. And then what about fall protection? Do you work from heights here as well?
We work from just about any position. Yeah. We work at heights out in the middle of kind of nowhere, you're crawling out there, but we have 100% tie-off.
Okay. Talk about fall protection. You work from heights here, and you've got two different sets of body harnesses. What's unique about this one and what do you use it for?
This one is Kevlar. It's fire rated.
And this one is strictly for fall protection. You got a harness that clicks into the D-ring here, and you can tie off to wherever you're at.
When your working from heights. Okay.
Right. And then we also have this style here, and this one is Kevlar, fire-rated. The difference with this one is you have positioning rings.
Alright. One on each side of your hip.
Yep. Right on your hips, where you can put a cable around a pipe or whatever you're working by and it can keep you in position so you can use both of your hands to work.
Instead of just being able to use one hand.
Sure. And now, these are also special for another reason.
Yep. These are Kevlar, fire resistant harnesses for welding and any kind of hot work.
So welders need to know. You don't just pick up any old body harness. You have to make sure you have one that can't be burned.
Makes sense. What are these other items over here? When do you use those?
These are welding sleeves. You got two different styles here. This is a leather style, which I prefer. More comfortable and I think they offer a little more protection. And these are made of the same material as the weld jackets. Usually wear it when it's warm outside, so you're not so hot.
Oh, so you don't have to have your entire jacket on?
Would you have an apron on then?
It kind of depends on what you're doing.
You need it.
I prefer this style, but this style's good.
Sure. And your employer offers you a couple different options, so you can kind of pick what's most comfortable for you.
Yeah. We have different sizes and then the two different styles.
Yeah, that work for what you're doing.
So we have got some caution tape here and we might not think about welders and caution tape, so when do you use this?
If we're doing any kind of overhead work, we like to let people know what's going on, so they don't just walk through and get burnt or have something fall on them. Or if we're moving something and then along with these, we have stickers that you write on there. You name, who's involved in the project, what you're doing, what the hazard might be, and the date, time.
A permit kind of system so that...
Okay. Great. And then, you wear a special kind of shoe as well, as a welder. Tell me about you shoe type and why you choose the kind that you do.
I wear pull-on style, and I have steel toe. And I have shoes, the pull-on style so you don't have anywhere for anything to fall in between the laces or burn you laces.
Yeah. So if you have slag that hits your foot and you want to get that shoe off ...
You can get it off.
You can get if off really quickly if you're not wearing a lace-up shoe.
But you're still protected with your steel toe, which is a requirement in this plant as well.
Yeah. Okay. Any other kinds of considerations, since you're the welder and the professional in the room. This is a lot of stuff that you have to keep track of, and know when you're going to pick the right thing. Are there other considerations for welders to know?
It's a great trade to get into. I would suggest it for anybody. It's a dying trade and I think more people need to get into it. It's important.
Yeah, it is. How long have you been a welder?
About 10 years.
That's great. Thank you so much for all the knowledge that you shared today. Really appreciate it.
Thanks for having me.
Yeah. So remember, if you're a welder, you have a lot of options for personal protective equipment. It's very important for you to know which type of personal protective equipment you need on any given day to protect you from the hazards you could be exposed to.
I hope you gained a safety training skill today. If you know someone who needs this, go ahead and pass it on. Safety is everyone's business.