Safety Articles

Article # 3209

Aprons, sleeves, pants, spats, gloves
Courtesy of: Steiner Industries

Protecting Welders from Head to Toe
The two types of materials most-commonly used in welder protective apparel are chrome tanned leather and specially treated fire-resistant cotton. Leather is durable and will last several years if dry cleaned regularly after the garment becomes noticeably stiffened from accumulated dirt and grime. Treated-cotton garments come in a range of material weights, allowing the welder a choice--to work in hot summer environments, he can select a lighter-weight material, otherwise he can opt for a heavier-weight more-durable garment. All but the most inexpensive treated-cotton garments can be laundered using normal temperatures and cycles without affecting the fire-resistant treatment.

Purchasers of welder apparel should avoid garments that offer a place for sparks to land - look for pants, overalls, and coveralls with no cuffs or pockets. Don't let welders roll up their sleeves.

Gaining favor for aprons, sleeves, and gloves are high-heat fabrics of Kevlar blended with fiberglass. These withstand temperatures of 600 F. Another option is Zetex, a highly textured form of silica fabric that is inert and will not burn; it withstands temperatures to 1,000 F. Good to 2,000 F, Zetex Plus comes coated. All of these materials also resist cuts and abrasion. Further, to optimize protection from radiant heat, clothing made of any of these materials can carry an aluminized layer. Aluminized fabrics find use in gloves, aprons, leggings, and hand pads.

Jackets offer full torso and arm protection, but may be too heavy for some working conditions. A lighter, cooler alternative is a cape sleeve, which protects the arms and chest while leaving the back open. Pair a cape sleeve with a bib to protect the upper torso to the waist.

Another option is the bib apron. Specify a split-leg apron for optimum freedom of movement, useful, for example, if the welder needs to kneel a lot. If the welder's arms are heavily exposed, dress him in sleeves, which come in 18- and 23- inch lengths.

Protecting the lower body, safety pants are usually worn over the welder's regular pants. For welders needing the extra protection of leather without the extra weight or warmth, chaps offer a good alternative. Chaps protect the front of the legs, leaving the back open. They fasten to the legs with straps. Protect only the lower portion of a welder's legs with leggings, which have extensions for foot protection. Spats protect only ankles and feet - spats as well as the extensions on leggings keep sparks from falling into the openings on the top of shoes.

For one-piece top-to-bottom protection, select either a coverall of overall. Due to weight and expense for these large garments, these tend to be ordered in fire-resistant cotton.

Welders can select among two types of gloves - welding gloves and Tig (gastungsten-are-welding, GTAW) gloves, the welding type being much heavier. Tig gloves tend to be unlined for optimum "feel," and are often manufactured of leather other than cowhide, including sheepskin and pigskin. Tig gloves, which generally wear faster than welding gloves, come sized for optimum fit and feel.

Standard length of welding gloves is 14 inches, enough to cover half of the welder's forearm. For protection to the elbow, spec an 18-inch glove.

Most welding gloves are of leather, of varying grade. Premium gloves are of side-split cowhide, a better grade than shoulder-split. For optimum flexibility, durability, and protection, look for these features: welting, thumb strap, Kevlar thread, one-piece back, and a comfortable durable lining.

For optimum protection from radiant heat, spec a glove with Mylar, an aluminized material. The Mylar can be placed either between the lining and leather outer shell or on the back of the hand outside of the leather. Another option: add a Mylar-covered hand pad placed over a regular welding glove.