In February 2019 an H&S Safety Alert was released after more scientific evidence that welding steel is now a known carcinogen and as such welders and the surrounding people must be protected from welding fumes in there breathing zone.
The stipulation is that over 95% of welding fume protection must be offered, for the welder as well as people in the area.
If over 95% of welding fume is captured at source then you don't need a PARP Helmet if not, then you do.
Here we list some features and specifications we would recommend before you purchase so that you make the right choice for you!
Under normal working conditions, the respiratory rate is about 20 litres of air per minute. Over a working year (full-time welding), a welder breathes in about 2300 m3of air.
For example the Occupational Exposure Limit (OEL) for zinc oxide, which is 5 mg/m3. Even if you’re within this OEL, you inhale up to 11 grams of zinc oxide every year when not using personal respiratory protection.*
Scary isnt it! Welders have always known about eye protection but maybe not so much about fume and fume protection.
How do they work?
Welding fume or PARP systems have been around for many years and consist of a battery-operated filter unit worn on a belt around your waist and attached to this is a flexible tube that runs up your back into the top of the welding helmet.
Air is sucked in from behind the welder ( the cleanest place away from heavy fume), sent through filters and blown out into the top of your helmet giving you a nice cool stream of clean filtered air. The positive pressure of this airstream means the outside fumed air cannot pervade into the helmet. To help in this a bottom cloth cover goes under your chin to for a loose seal.
I must admit the blowing of the air is a nice bonus as it cools you, some of these helmets can be heavy and cumbersome and welding can be a sweaty and hot job.
The Blower / Filter Unit
Different units have different functions and specifications but below is what we would recommend the unit has if you can them get for the price.
Approval to EN12941 (TH2) Powered Respirator
Battery charge indicator
Brushless motor - gives longer life
Pre-filter - removes larger particles
Particle filter, particulate filtration.
Gas filter - filters out inorganic and organic vapours and acid gases
Rechargeable Li-ion battery
Blocked filter audible alarm and if possible vibration
NIMH or Li-ion Battery?
Lithium has many advantages over NIMH and I feel is better suited for welding PARP systems.
They are lighter than NIMH.
Faster recharge time than NIMH.
Can be left for longer without charging as they have a very low internal discharge rate.
Lithium batteries do not suffer from a memory effect, so they don’t need to be discharged completely before recharging in order to preserve their capacity.
Lithium batteries do, however, lose their original capacity the more they are recharged but most are designed for hundreds of recharges before they are deemed useless.
Another consideration should be the cost of the filter and consumable spares. Don't just look at the price of the helmet, check how much filters cost across different manufacturer models before making your choice.
The welding shield is the main reason you buy the helmet you do, features are important but the two main ones to look for are the quality of the auto-darkening lens and the comfort and weight of the helmet. The weight is very important if you're going to be wearing the helmet for a long shift. Weight differences of only a few grams can very easily cause neck fatigue.
The larger and better the Auto lens the easier it is to see the weld pool without having to move your head into unnatural positions, again this reduces fatigue. The quality of the lens also reduces the risk of your eyes getting tired.
Always ensure your helmet meets the following criteria:
EN379 Auto Darkening Welding Filter
EN166 Eye Protection
EN175 Welding Shield
ANSI Z87.1 ( US Specification for eye and face safety products )
Helmet - features and functions
As stated earlier the larger the viewing area the better it is to reduce fatigue. It also reduces the effect of tunnel vision about your surrounding area as you can see more.
For me, this is now a must! True colour lenses give you a colour perception of the weld pool and so helps immensely in improving weld quality.
Professional helmets offer a wide range of shading usually from 9-13 shades which is for general MIG MAG, MMA and TIG. An added bonus is lenses that offer 5-9 shades enabling low current TIG and Plasma to be carried out.
The fail-safe shade for most helmets is shade 5-6, this is the natural shade of the lens before switching, or if it fails to switch.
Helmets with a grinding feature are especially useful as they enable you to weld, then grind your job without removing your helmet. Some have a grinding helmet below the welding helmet and so to grind you just flip up the welding helmet.
These are really good as you get a full view of the grinding area but this comes at the cost of extra helmet weight.
These are the little eyes of the helmet to enable them to see the arc faster and easier.
The more they have the better the helmet is at switching at lower welding currents. I, therefore, feel the more of these the better.
The sensitivity adjustment enables the welder to alter how sensitive the light is for it to react. Being able to adjust this is great if you're in a very bright environment or have low lights in your building then these can cause your helmet to react. Adjusting the lens sensitivity to ignore these other sources of light means it will only react to the welding arc.
Delay is the length of time AFTER the weld has finished for the lens to switch off. I like mine to be set low so the lens becomes light so I can see quickly after I've finished.
Solar Charging or Battery
Both features have their pros and cons.
Solar is useful as it charges the lens from the welding arc. The problem can be that if you place your helmet in a protective bag for long periods the internal battery can become discharged. A lot of these internal batteries cannot be changed if this happens.
Battery-powered helmets do not have this problem but of course, they will use batteries which is an extra cost.
This is important, the more you use your helmet the faster you need it to switch. Your eye is quicker than the lens can switch no matter what the helmet is. So you do get a tiny glare each time you arc up. Funnily enough, this can create a problem with older people as your Iris will contract to protect your pupil as it tries to focus this bright light. As you age your Iris takes longer to move and re-focus ( the iris is a sphincter muscle).
This time to re-focus could mean your welding blurred at the start until you eye focuses.
Typical switching speeds of professional helmets are 0.1 ms at 23 degrees.
Hobby Helmets switch at half this speed.
As we have said before weight and size of the helmet can be important. Fume welding helmets can be heavy so it's important to try the helmet and to ensure it's comfortable.
We have listed a lot of the features we would look for in a welding helmet and this is what we do when recommending. Price is important and some of the lower-priced units have great features for the price. Just because a helmet costs a £900 doesn't mean its the best or the perfect one for you.
If you need any more advice or just want to speak to someone before purchasing then please CONTACT US