Do Welding Helmets Protect From UV?

Welding is a tough task that comes hand in hand with exposure to heat, fumes, sparks, and flames. Whilst these are all grave concerns, a welding arc also emits UV rays and infrared rays. 

UV rays produced and emitted during welding make welders prone to a lot of health risks. If eyes are exposed to UV rays frequently, they can cause damage beyond just Arc eye: they can make you blind, permanently. 

Clearly, it’s very important that welders protect themselves from UV rays, and wearing auto-darkening welding helmets is the best way to do so.

The lens of auto-darkening welding helmets is made UV-proof. Naturally, it blocks UV rays of all sorts (UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C). What’s even better is that lithium-ion batteries or AAA batteries in a solar welding helmet use UV rays to charge the helmet. 

Do Welding Helmets Protect From UV

Do welding helmets block UV rays?

Welding helmets can be generalized as the ones that run on batteries and the second type is a solar welding helmet. 

Technically, both the categories – battery-operated welding helmets and solar welding helmets – are designed to protect welders from UV rays. However, solar welding helmets protect from UV rays a lot better than anything else.

A solar welding helmet is also known as an auto-darkening welding helmet. As soon as the light from the Sun or the welding arc falls on the helmet, the lens automatically turns dark. 

The reaction time within which the lens goes dark is as less as 1/10000th to 1/25000th of a single second, even faster in some cases. It means the helmet reacts almost immediately to light. Thus, it forms a barrier even before UV rays are propelled.

UV rays, even IR rays and heat for that matter, are immediately shunned from breaching the barrier that the helmet creates. 

When you properly wear a welding helmet that’s been approved by ANSI Z87.1, the lens stands as a guard between your eyes and ultraviolet rays of all wavelengths.

Therefore, a solar welding helmet protects your eyes from all three types of UV rays: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C.

How do welding helmets offer protection from UV rays?

It might interest you to know that every welding helmet is incorporated with a filter that covers the window through which a welder can see.

That filter is what we call a lens shade. And lens shade is responsible for shielding the eyes from UV rays. 

The light filtering levels of the lens shade are identified as DIN numbers. The higher the DIN number, the darker the lens shade is.

Since different types of welding techniques operate at different amperages, the DIN number ideal for you depends on the type of welding at hand.

Here’s the list that’s a standard rule according to ANSI Z87.1:

1.) DIN when welding is carried out at 50 to 60 amps is supposed to be minimum 10 so that the helmet can block all UV light.

2.) When the welding is being carried out at 60 to 160 amps, the DIN number (lens shade) goes to 11.

3.) For welding being carried out at 160 to 200 amps, the lens shade required is 12.

4.) For welding being carried out at 200 to 249 amps, the lens shade required is at least 13.

5.) When the welding amperage goes above 250, a DIN that’s minimum14 becomes quintessential.

Only when a welder wears a helmet with the DIN number according to the amps at which welding is being done that UV rays can be entirely blocked.

An auto-darkening helmet uses more than one way to protect a welder from UV rays. 

1.) Firstly, the lens becomes impermeable to UV light that’s specific to the amps at which welding is being done.

2.) Secondly, the lithium-ion batteries use and channelize UV rays to power the helmet by charging it.

Clearly, the efficiency with which the filtering lens fends off UV light from entering inside the helmet and the smartness with which the batteries use UV rays to charge the solar welding helmet ensure that UV rays are blocked entirely from affecting the eyes of the welder.

The benefits of wearing auto-darkening welding helmets?

UV protection is the first benefit, as you know by now. However, there are other benefits that auto-darkening helmets offer. 

Here’s a point-by-point list of benefits that ANSI-approved solar welding helmets offer.

1.) These helmets protect from infrared rays.

2.) They protect from sparks, flames, heat, splashes from molten metal, and debris. 

3.) They protect from burns (even third-degree burns).

4.) They protect from fumes that can otherwise cause breathing disorders and even cancer, if inhaled.

4 Things to Consider when wearing a welding helmet for UV protection 

When a welding helmet is in compliance with the specifications laid by ANSI, it’s supposed to offer full-proof protection from UV rays. 

But, despite the efficiency, it’s important that all the below-mentioned conditions are met. In the lapse of even one, protection from UV rays will be compromised. Have a look:

1.) Wearing a welding helmet with DIN that’s less than the amps at which welding is being done will leave your eyes exposed to UV rays of different wavelengths without your knowledge.

2.) If the welding helmet has cracks, no matter how small, light will reach your eyes anyway. Hence, you won’t have complete protection from UV exposure.

3.) One size doesn’t fit all. Make sure that the welding helmet you’re wearing isn’t too big for you. If it is, there will be gaps. Those gaps will allow UV rays to pass through the helmet and reach your eyes.

4.) Do test from time to time that the lens and batteries of your solar welding helmet are working properly. If not working to their maximum capacity, the lens shade is being compromised without your knowledge.

As long as all the aforementioned four conditions are being met and your helmet has the approval of ANSI, the helmet will block UV rays and protect your eyes.

Fun Fact: Auto-darkening welding helmets protect from UV rays, not tanning. Which is why it’s always a good idea to wear a broadband sunscreen under the welding helmet. 

Top 3 Welding Helmets that Block UV Rays

1.) Large Viewing Solar Powered Auto Darkening Welding Helmet by YESWELDER

This solar powered welding helmet is in full compliance with ANSI Z87.1. Other benefits and features are as follows:

1.) It’s equipped with 4 premium sensors.

2.) It can be used for TIG welding, MIG welding, as well as plasma welding because it has a variable DIN between 4 to 13.

3.) The auto-darkening reaction time is a whopping 1/30000th of a second.

4.) It has an optical clarity of 1-1-1-1 that can easily reduce even the lime green tint.

5.) The headgear has an oversized cushion. Thus, you can easily adjust the helmet for a snug comfortable fitting.

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2.) Auto Darkening Welding Helmet by WELDSAMURAI

This solar welding helmet is in compliance with EN 379, ISEA Z87.1, CAN Z94.3, and AS/NZS 133 alongside being ANSI Z87.1 compliant.

The most noteworthy features that make this welding helmet one of the best helmets that block UV rays are as follows.

1.) It has a sensitivity control knob. 

2.) It has 1/1/1/2 optical clarity rating.

3.) The hood has a variable DIN between 5 to 13. Hence, it can be used for different types of welding like TIG welding, MIG welding, and Plasma welding.

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3.) Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet by TOOLIOM

This solar welding helmet that’s in full compliance with ANSI Z87.1, EN379 CE, and CSA Z94.3 has a variable lens shade between 9 to 13. Hence, it can be used for MIG, TIG, as well as plasma welding.

1.) The UV/IR protection shoots upto DIN 16. Hence, it’s one of the safest auto-darkening helmets to watch a solar eclipse.

2.) It reduces the lime green tint that helps welders see very clearly. 

3.) It offers the comfort to even install a magnifying lens for welders (with weak eyesight) who require vision correction.

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Can you look at the sun with a welding helmet?

Although it’s not recommended to look at the Sun directly, if it’s absolutely necessary, make sure the lens shade (DIN) is 12 or more. Anything lower than 12 will damage your eyes.  

How long does a welding helmet last?

The expected life of a solar welding helmet that’s properly stored, tested from time to time, and handled with care is between 7 to 10 years easily. 

Can UV rays charge a welding helmet?  

The batteries in an auto-darkening welding helmet can (and do) use UV rays to charge the helmet. Hence, the helmet will work even if there’s no sunlight. 

That’s why a solar welding helmet is just as good for indoor welding as it is for outdoor welding.

Concluding Thoughts:

An auto-darkening welding helmet (even the battery-operated welding helmets) that have the right DIN number will always protect your eyes from UV rays (all three, UVA, UVB, and UVC). 

It doesn’t matter whether the UV rays are coming from the Sun or the welding arc, when an ANSI-approved welding helmet is worn properly, it blocks UV rays fully.  

Steve Goodman
Experienced welder with 7+ years of expertise in all the latest welding techniques MIG, flux and stick welding, drill press, crane operation and metal fabrication. Welding certificate course graduate and 2018 Excellence in Welding award winner.

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