The respiratory hazards that welders face in the metalworking industry are highly risky and the welding fumes produced and circulating around them also result in health-related issues.
Workers need a respiratory solution that acts as a respirator and is placed below the welding helmet for added protection to the welders.
Without advanced technology and social awareness, people have gained more ideas about the consequences of the welding fumes that surround the welders during their working hours.
This article will help all beginners as well as welding professionals to purchase the right kind of welding respirators according to their workplace and welding process.
Welding respirators prevent the maximum amount of weld fumes produced and help increase operator comfort and safety. These welding regulators are designed to fit under your welding helmet or integrate airflow into the helmet for maximum portability and functionality.
After many years of evolution in the welding equipment available, these respirators have been transformed into half-mask respirators, powered air-purifying respirators, and supplied air-purifying masks.
These masks are designed and manufactured for each level of fumes exposure in the workplace.
These respirators also facilitate more air for the people and reduce exposure of the workers to zinc and hexavalent chromium produced in the welding process.
Studies have proved that welders who use respirators and welding helmets suggested by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), are free from diseases like bronchitis, airway irritation, lung cancer, and pulmonary infections. You may be highly benefitted by this.
Types and Functions
Disposable Half Face-Piece
This mask is highly inexpensive and requires no maintenance. It is portable, light in weight, and can fit under any helmet. There will be increased heat retention and stiffness.
Elastomeric Half Face-Piece:
This face-piece has replaceable filters available and it has various size options available. The unit cost is average and is a very light and mod-able device. It may not fit every welding helmet quite easily. Many size options are available.
Powered-Air, Loose-fitting respirator:
This is a highly-comfortable respirator with reduced stuffiness. It provides an immense cooling effect and good circulation of air. This is the only helmet that has no resistance to persistent breathing and overheating. It has hard-heat options. The drawbacks are higher costs, increased maintenance time and costs, and more training is required for the user.
This is one of the most versatile and contaminant helmets out there. It prevents chilled as well as heated air. It has minimal breathing resistance compared to other respirators. You wouldn’t need to change the filter nor the batteries to charge. The basic drawbacks are that it’s expensive and heavy.
- Selecting the right type of filter is the best way to future proof your respirator and your life.
- The first letter here refers to the resistance level of the filter to liquid oil.
- The next immediate number represents the filter efficiency in laboratory tests.
- N95 class filters are recommended for almost all types of welding activities as it is easy to filter oil as well as other particulate matter quite easily.
- In the same manner, if lead and cadmium particles are involved, then the use of 100 class filters is recommended.
Gas and Vapor Cartridges
Most of the gas and vaporized harmful fumes can be removed using particulate filters. By using a bed of activated carbon, all the harmful fumes are removed. Cartridges having NIOSH certification are preferred for the specific vapors present.
The common cartridges used in welding processes are organic vapor (black label), acid gas(white label), and organic vapor(yellow label). The amount of harmful gas and contaminants removed by the filter will determine the filter’s lifetime and replacement. These cartridges do not clog the gas and vapor but allow them to pass through and concentrate the contaminants and fumes at one end.
The service life estimate can be calculated and for each and every filter based on its application and keep a maintenance routine to be sure about the quality of your filter.
Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR)
The ‘powered-air purifying respirators’ use a battery-powered blower that pulls air using its filters and cartridges. These blower units are belt-mounted and help push all the filtered air through a tube connected to your helmet.
Due to low pressure, filtered air keeps on constantly flowing into the headpiece under pressure, and leakage of contaminants is reduced immensely from the helmet. Due to the increased flow of fresh and cool air in and around the welder and his face makes him feel good and comfortable while welding.
Supplied Air Respirators
Gases like argon and carbon monoxide being extremely minute and hard to filter. In such cases, these supplied-air respirators require a compressor that must be placed in an area that is not having any contaminants in the air to promote clean airflow into the helmet.
The air that you supply to the compressor must be as per the regulations given by OSHA Respiratory Protection Standards 29 CFR. The only disadvantage that most welders might experience is that it is heavy and not portable making it immobile. The main advantage that it has is the supply of fresh, cool air around the person.
- Every welder’s individual preference is important and must be taken forward. A respirator that is not comfortable for the welder should not be worn by that person.
- Wearing it for a short period of time itself could affect the respiratory health condition of the welder.
- It is recommended for the welders to shave or use certain powered or supplied air respirators who own a long beard.
- Welders should select the respirator meant for welding and this is because many helmets/respirators are not resistant to sparks and fumes.
Each and every welder must get respirator training which includes instructions to use, maintain, and also store the respirators in a proper manner.
Welders having lung or heart conditions and diseases must not use such respirators as it can affect them furthermore. Medical clearance and tests can be taken before use.
Fit testing must be done using OSHA standards and testing must be done for all types of tight-fitting respirators. Even though you may purchase a maintenance-free or reusable respirator that does not need to replace the filters, the fit must be proper. Physical changes and damages occurring to the respirator can affect its fit and quality over time.
If this program is carried out from time-to-time, then proper utilization of the respirators and their effectiveness can be maintained throughout.
Sean Coby is a welder par excellence and well respected among the welding community in Woodbridge, VA. He prides himself to be the fabricator and mechanic in the automotive/ diesel industry for the past more than eight years now. As the chief editor of his https://weldinginfocenter.com, he shares his experience to be safe during welding and to take proactive steps for becoming a successful welder like him.