New helmet technologies
Helmets play a critical role in a successful welding operation, impacting welding operator safety, operator comfort, weld quality and overall productivity.
There are many reasons why companies should stay updated on new helmet technologies and invest in them for the benefit of their employees. Advanced helmet technologies help companies and their workforce meet safety regulations and compliance requirements, including those set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Focusing on compliance helps companies avoid potential fines that could impact the bottom line. It also helps prevent the rising cost of workplace injuries and related downtime, which can be addressed, in part, by taking steps to keep employees safe and protected with proper PPE, including the best possible welding helmet.
Having the right helmet can also have a positive impact on welding operator output, since a more comfortable welding operator is typically more productive.
Why is the proper welding helmet so important?
Today’s welding helmet technologies continue to evolve and give companies and welders a lot to consider when shopping for a helmet. That said, safety and physical well-being lead the way.
Eye injuries are among the most common injuries in welding environments, and there is an increased push in the industry to prevent them. Musculoskeletal injuries in the neck and back muscles can also become an issue long term, especially if a welding operator wears a poorly designed helmet or if he or she has poor welding posture.
A properly designed welding helmet offers greater protection against such issues. A helmet that has a good viewing area and a lens with auto-darkening helmet technology reduces eye strain when looking at the weld joint. It also minimizes the need for “nodding” associated with putting traditional welding helmets in place by using a forward-neck motion.
What to look for in a welding helmet
It’s important to choose a helmet that provides the welding operator the necessary protection against the identified hazards in the workplace, while also allowing him or her to comfortably weld without restraint. Welding helmet manufacturers continue to respond to this need. The latest helmets on the market offer numerous distinct advantages, including:
- Reduced helmet weight and improved balance to help minimize torque on the welding operator’s neck and lessen fatigue.
- A larger viewing area and better peripheral vision that give the welder a clearer view of the weld pool, weld joint and overall work area without causing discomfort.
- Improved clarity thanks to advancements in lens technology, which can provide a brighter light state, twice the clarity and enhanced contrast of the workpiece for a better view of the welding arc. The combination of these features, like on the new ClearLight 2.0 welding helmet, gives welders more confidence while they work, allowing them to see the weld pool more clearly and therefore avoid costly mistakes and lessen rework.
- Headgear is an important factor in the comfort of a welding helmet. The Legacy headgear has a flexible, ergonomic design and incorporates a comfort cushion at the back of the head to help achieve maximum comfort for all-day wear.
Additional factors to consider:
- Next-generation welding helmets are designed with the thinnest and lightest materials available that don’t compromise durability. Slim designs featured in newer helmets also allow entry into tight spaces for welding, making it safer and easier to get the job done.
- Some next-generation welding helmets are specifically designed to be used in conjunction with low-profile half-mask respirators, providing a comfortable solution that protects the welding operator from weld fumes.
- Shell color can also impact comfort and cooling. Lighter colors, like silver, are best for high heat applications since they don’t absorb as much heat.
Respiratory and non-respiratory helmet options
Increased awareness of weld fume issues continues to support the value of implementing the proper respiratory protection — such as powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) — in conjunction with a properly designed helmet. Helmet assemblies come in various options to best meet application needs. Supplied air respirators (SAR) are another option that provide clean, breathable air and relief from heat stress through cool air.
With the increasing stringency of the industry’s weld fume regulations, along with a more vested interest by companies in safety, companies may find the need for varying levels of respiratory protection (e.g., half-mask, PAPR or SAR systems).
Few manufacturers provide the modularity and variety in their helmet offering to encompass all those solutions. Look for products that provide the ability to easily select and switch between respiratory solutions that are most comfortable for welding operators and best fit their needs.
Recent technology advancements are designed to drive productivity, safety and comfort in respiratory helmet options. These include airflow improvements — specifically, designs that offer airflow distribution over the front of the welding operator’s face and side of his or her head. By targeting airflow at these areas where blood vessels are located, the cooling effect is maximized as the airflow works to enhance the human body’s natural thermoregulation process. The ability to customize where the air blows on their face helps keep welding operators more comfortable and productive.
Welding operator comfort and productivity can also be impacted via the improved head seal designs available in today’s respiratory helmets. In these helmets, the head seal is the fabric that drapes around the welding operator’s neck to keep weld fumes out. Newer helmet designs enhance comfort by using softer material for sensitive areas surrounding the neck and face.
Lastly, newer generations of respiratory helmets are designed to distribute weight so the respiratory components act as a counterbalance to the front-heavy welding lens, which minimizes strain on the welding operator’s neck.
Welding helmet headgear
A proper helmet is more than just the hood. Headgear is what secures the helmet to the user’s head, making it a critical component of helmet safety.
When selecting headgear, it is important to consider helmet usage throughout the day (i.e., intermittent or continuous). If a welder is frequently flipping the hood up and down, certain headgear styles are more durable for that repetitive motion, including the Miller® Legacy headgear. For a welder using respiratory helmets or who is involved in applications where they stay hooded and/or hood-down most of the day, other styles like the Miller® Gen IV — which is created with more flexible materials — provide a secure fit that’s comfortable for all-day wear.
Because not all people have the same preferences, it’s important to look for a helmet that allows for the headgear to be interchangeable. This gives welders the option to pair their favorite helmet with a headgear system that best suits their head size and shape (or their length or lack of hair). This mix-and-match approach helps create a comfortable fit, and in turn improves the helmet’s stability, enhances safety and makes compliance more likely. Plus, a better fit requires fewer adjustments, which means more productivity on the job.
Just as helmet technology has evolved to improve visibility, weld pool clarity and overall weight to suit a host of welder applications and preferences, headgear is something that is subject to evolution. Miller collects and considers customer feedback, using it to fine-tune headgear offerings that suit the needs of operators. A recent example of that is with the new Legacy headgear. It evolved from favorite parts of the old headgear, complemented with new and improved features.
Solutions to improve comfort and productivity
Operator safety is critical in every welding operation, and employee acceptance of safety gear tends to be better with helmets that are less cumbersome and more comfortable. A helmet that is lighter, cooler and yields a near-custom fit with a quality headgear system will reduce neck strain and lessen fatigue — which makes operators more likely to wear them and avoid the types of injuries that can lead to downtime, time off work and decreased throughput. Finding a helmet that fits means welding operators keep them on more and take them off less, minimizing their exposure to hazards and making for a more comfortable, productive workday.
Use the comparison chart to determine the best helmet for your daily work needs or find a Miller retailer nearest you to purchase a new helmet or headgear.