Wearing the correct clothing is essential. This includes a flame-resistant and long-sleeve jacket, leather gloves, long pants, leather shoes or boots, a welding helmet, safety glasses and a bandana or hood.
Your welding helmet is one of the most important safety items that you’ll need for any weld. They protect your eyes and skin from the UV and IR rays, plus the blue light emitted from the arc during a weld. They also protect from sparks and smoke.
Merely having the helmet is not enough though, it’ll only be useful if it’s being used correctly. Auto-darkening helmets come with a range of shades, but you’ll still need to select the correct shade or the right mode to ensure you’re getting the proper coverage for your eyes. While a ‘bucket hat’ helmet, one of the older versions of a helmet, may be cheaper, is it really worth sacrificing your eyes to save a few bucks?
Optical Clarity Classifications
Every auto-darkening helmet has four critical categories evaluated to determine its optical clarity. The optical clarity boils down to how well you can see out of the helmet. These tests are rated from 1 to 3, with 1 being the best and 3 being the worst. The four tests are:
Optical class: how distorted is the image through the lens? If you look through the lens and it’s like looking through rippled water, then it’s not a good helmet. The image should be clear and crisp to obtain a 1 rating.
Diffusion of light class: are there impurities in the lens from the manufacturing process? These impurities make the lens unclear and hard to see out of, like fingerprints or scratches on glasses. The lens should be uniform and clear to obtain a 1 rating.
Variations in luminous transmittance class: focuses on the lens’s adjustable shade function. Once a shade has been selected, how consistent is it across the lens? A quality lens will be the same shade up or down, left to right, and in the corners. There should be no areas that are too bright or too dark, as this affects the optical clarity. An even shade across the entire lens is needed to obtain a 1 rating.
Angle dependence on luminous transmittance class: there should be a clear view with no stretching, dark areas, blurriness, or problems when looking at an angle. This is similar to variations in luminous transmittance, as it measures the consistency of the shades across the lens but at an angle. It should look the same downwards or upwards as it does straight through to obtain a 1 rating.
When you’re looking for a helmet, you’ll want one that has a good score on these classifications (1/1/1/1 is the best), as well as one that meets the Australian and New Zealand standards. Every UNIMIG helmet meets the required standards AS/NZS 1338.1 and AS/NZS 1337.1B (high impact), so you can’t go wrong regardless of which helmet you buy. However, we do still recommend safety glasses for that added protection.
NOTE: the Aussie and Kiwi standards are not interchangeable with European ones, so make sure you purchase a helmet from a reputable brand that meets the local requirements for the safest weld.
The shade range of a helmet is how light or dark your helmet filter can get. The higher the number, the darker the shade.
It’s important to find a balance between adequately protecting your eyes while still clearly seeing your workpiece. Several factors should be considered when picking a shade:
- Weld type
- Switching between jobs
There are recommended shades for each type of welding and the amps you’re welding at.
ELITEVISION™ Lens Technology
The ELITEVISION technology in UNIMIG helmets allows for true colour view. True colour means that more colours from the spectrum can pass through the lens (more reds and blues, less green) for better optical clarity. It makes it much easier to clearly see the weld at all stages of the process, and it reduces eye fatigue so that you can weld for longer periods.
A solar panel powers every UNIMIG helmet. This doesn’t mean you need to sit it out in the sun every time you want to use it, though. Because a welding arc produces UV rays (which is what the helmet is protecting you from), the helmet charges at the same time as it’s being used.
Solar panel powered helmets still include an internal battery (this is what’s being charged) which powers up the helmet, but they’re not removable or replaceable. There is usually a power bar indicator inside the helmet, so you can keep an eye on how much power it has.
Some helmets also come with a backup battery, which will kick in if your helmet does run out of power. The battery will keep the filter working if you’re in the middle of a weld, rather than having it turn off and flash you unexpectedly. These batteries are replaceable as well if the backups do, themselves, run out.
When you’re welding, especially if it’s for long periods, comfort is essential. The harness on the helmet is what makes them comfortable. UNIMIG sells 3-point and 5-point harnesses. The more points of contact on the harness, the comfier it’s going to be. Each point of contact allows for adjusting, so you can better fit the helmet to your head, and they help distribute the weight evenly so it’s not straining your neck.
Mag (or cheater) lenses let you zoom in and get a closer view of your weld. Each UNIMIG helmet comes with the ability to insert a mag lens.
Every UNIMIG helmet is suitable for MIG, TIG, stick, plasma and grinding. On a 9-13 helmet, low amp TIG welding (3-5A) will not be possible. You’ll need a shade 5-9 helmet for low amp TIG.
Each helmet comes with the following settings:
- Weld/Grind – weld mode or grind mode
- Shade – select the shade needed for your type of weld
- Sensitivity – how sensitive to the light your helmet is, turning this up will make the helmet auto-darken faster with more ambient light (e.g. if you’re welding outside, turn it up for the helmet to more easily recognise when an arc has ignited)
- Delay – how quickly the helmet goes from dark to light, the delay is used a lot with pulse welding, as you don’t want the helmet to lighten as the arc fades during the cycles
High-end helmets also come with three memory profile buttons on the inside.
While your helmet is one of the most crucial items of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), sparks and blindness are not the only health risks when you’re welding. The fumes released from the metals as they’re ground or welded can be toxic, so if you can’t properly ventilate the space you’re in, a respirator is essential.
The ELIPSE Half-Mask P2 Respirator is approved to AS/NZS 1716:2012, lightweight, low profile for full visibility and compatible with every UNIMIG and most other helmets available.
Otherwise, you can also get a Powered Air Purifying Respirator Helmet. This features a powered respirator, which sits on your hips like a bum bag and feeds air in through a hose to the back of the helmet. It will keep fresh air blowing through your helmet for several hours, so you won’t need to worry about breathing in any dirty outside air.
Both of these options will keep your lungs safe from the fumes as you weld.
There are a number of welding jackets that are available at UNIMIG. The first is the ROGUE Welding Jacket, which is made from flame-retardant treated cotton. It’s ideal for light-duty welding, and the cotton material makes it lightweight as well, great for hotter conditions.
The second option, the ROGUE Leather Sleeved Welding Jacket, is a hybrid of sorts, with a treated cotton torso and full leather sleeves. The leather sleeves help with extra protection against spatter, and this jacket is recommended for both light and heavy-duty welding.
Our final jacket, the ROGUE Full Leather Welding Jacket, is a fully protective, fully leather piece. It’s great for both light and heavy-duty welding but is definitely the best option if you’re going to be doing overhead welds, as it gives that bit extra against any dripping molten metal.
Jackets aren’t the only apparel that comes with multiple options. There are also a range of welding gloves available depending on the type of welding you’re doing. The first pair of gloves are our ROGUE Heavy Duty Welding Gloves, which are quite thick. They’re designed for high heat MIG and plasma cutting, so you can go for longer stretches before your hands start to feel the heat from the gun.
The second set of gloves are the Medium Duty Welding Gloves, which are a nice middle ground. They’re not as thick and bulky as the Heavy Duty, but they’ll still keep your hands from feeling the heat of the weld.
Our third pair are the ROGUE TIG Welding Gloves. These are, as it says, designed for TIG welding. They’re thinner, with a much tighter fit, so that you can get a proper feel for your filler metal, which is important for a good TIG weld. TIG is also usually done at a lower heat level than other welding, so you can get away with thinner gloves as your torch won’t heat up as fast either.