April 21, 2014
Instead of a Q&A column this issue, we’re going to talk PPE and hygiene. The idea was inspired by my wife Dianne, who bought me an issue of Esquire magazine before our trip to Oregon. She was adamant that I read it, so finally I picked it up. Among the advertisements for men’s fragrances, swanky alcoholic beverages, and Mini Coopers was an article titled “Grooming—Man at His Best,” with the subtitle “Summer Feet.” After reading about pumice stones, exfoliation, and lotions, it hit me: she bought this issue so I’d read this article.
Not being one to fall for such trickery, I asked her if this was the reason she bought the magazine. She said she felt it was necessary because “you’re not going to find this stuff in those darn welding magazines.” She’s right, so let’s change that.
Let’s start at the top. Your hard hat has a service life that few folks monitor. It is designed to protect you once. When it does, say thank you and replace both the shell and headband.
When days can get long, would it kill you to wash or replace your headband from time to time? Maybe you have helmets or face shields that others use. If so, keep a disinfectant wipe or spray handy for everyone to use.
Remember to break down and clean your welding helmet every once in a while with a little soap and water. It also wouldn’t hurt to wear a disposable respirator because it should keep your lungs and helmet clean. Keep in mind that positive-airflow hoods have their own replaceable components that need to be changed regularly. I don’t care how many generations have passed down your Huntsman. If it’s cracked, don’t repair it with duct tape, replace it.
Ear protection, whether muffs or molded or disposable, need to be cleaned or replaced regularly. For muffs or molded hearing protection, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for maintenance. For disposable hearing protection, replace them with a new set every time you remove them.
Be sure to use gloves that protect your hands adequately for the welding process you are using. Gloves for gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) are significantly different than the ones used for flux-cored arc welding (FCAW). Ensure heat and light cannot penetrate them. Replace gloves that have holes or have shrunk to the point where you can no longer fit your trigger finger in them. Don’t get them wet, and don’t get them oily. Your hands are counting on you to protect them.
Leathers, flam-retardant jackets, and chaps should not have holes in them or frayed edges. If they do, replace them immediately. These garments should be able to cover any cotton clothing to protect you from ultraviolet rays. A day of exposure to the welding arc can be hell on your neck, wrists, or crotch (ouch).
Finally, make sure you are wearing boots that are appropriate for your welding environment. Snow and rain can be hard on leather, but waterproofing can do wonders for your feet over a 10-hour day. Keep your socks dry, and have a fresh pair on hand to change into around mid-day – trust me. Gravity will ensure that all spatter and sparks land directly on top of your boots, so make sure your laces are ready for that.
Oh, in case you were wondering about Esquire’s grooming advice -- a pumice stone and a little lotion for your feet may just keep your significant other happy and lengthen the life of your bed sheets. Who knew?
Practical Welding Today® was created to fill a void in the industry for hands-on information, real-world applications, and down-to-earth advice for welders. No other welding magazine fills the need for this kind of practical information. Subscriptions are free to qualified welding professionals in North America.