All forms of welding are hazardous and potentially deadly. It is not without reason that strict rules govern the manufacture and use of welding machines and materials. A skilled welder is not just good at welding. They are also experts in safety and protection – both for themselves and those around them.
Personal safety during welding is of foremost importance. A number of rules and regulations govern this aspect, but even in their absence, it should not be taken lightly. Welding with just a visor and an apron is not enough. Adequate protection for the upper body is best provided by a welding jacket.
Welding jackets are no longer the unsightly dirty mess they once were. Modern welding jackets would pass for stylish casual wear. They are available in colourful designs for both men and women. Flame retardant cotton is the most common material used for these jackets, though leather and modern carbon polymers are not unheard of. Leather, as good as it sounds, is bulky and restricts movement, so is best when used as elbow patches or to line sensitive areas. Many newer cotton welding jackets come with interwoven carbon fibre threads that reduce the weight while also providing increased freedom of movement. A welding jacket serves many purposes and the three most important ones are briefly described here.
Burn Protection: By extension, this feature also provides protection from the intense heat produced during welding. A welding jacket can handle sparks and spills with ease. It is not just the molten metal itself, but also the heated welding equipment, workpiece, and the hot air around a work area. They ensure that the wearer is safe from any nasty burns from direct contact with hot or molten metal and indirect heat radiation.
Radiation Protection: Heat is not the only thing being radiated during welding. The bright arc also produces strong UV and other harmful radiation that can cause severe skin damage, even leading to cancer if not properly guarded against. At its least harmful, this radiation caused ‘flash’ burns on the skin – an injury that looks like a burn, causing the skin to redden and blister. It frequently occurs on exposed parts of the skin. A welding jacket leaves no such room for the radiation to pass through, protecting the wearer completely.
Fire Protection: A perennial, but rare hazard of working with high temperatures, fire does occasionally break out when welding. It usually happens when working with highly reactive metals like magnesium or even aluminium. The surface under the workpieces may also catch fire if it is not flame retardant. Such fires flare up without any warning, and without adequate protection, they can cause devastating injuries. A welding jacket is flame retardant and does not catch fire, protecting the wearer in the event such a situation ever occurs.