Preparing for a trip to Oregon for my little brothers wedding my wife Dianne bought me an Esquire magazine. “You just need to read this.” It sits around the house, showing up everyplace I find to relax for a moment. Finally, I pick it up. In amongst the men’s fragrances, schwanky alcoholic beverages and Mini Cooper ads is a section titled, “Grooming – Man at His Best”, sub-title “Summer Feet”. After reading about pumice stones, exfoliation and lotions it hits me, “This is why they bought this.”
Being one far too advanced to fall for simple trickery, I asked, “Is this why you got me this magazine?” Her response, “Well, you’re not going to find this stuff in your damn welding magazines.”
She’s right, so let’s change that. Let’s talk PPE & hygiene…
Starting at the top – Your hard hat has a service life that few folks monitor. It is designed to protect you once. When it does, we say thank you and replace both the shell and head band.
Days can get long and hot. I put hard hats, welding helmets and jock straps in the same category… I don’t share them, you shouldn’t either. Would it kill you to wash or replace the head band in both from time to time? Maybe you have helmets or face shields that are stored at equipment and used by others. Keep a disinfectant (wipe or spray) available for everyone to use.
You spend your whole shift singing into that Welding Hood. Break it down and clean it out with a little soap and water. It also wouldn’t hurt to wear a disposable respirator. It won’t do much for your singing, it tends to muffle the sound (your co-workers will appreciate that) but it should keep your lungs and helmet clean. Keep in mind that Positive Air Flow hoods have their own replaceable components. Change them regularly. And I don’t care how many generations have passed down your Huntsman, when it’s cracked we don’t duct tape it, we replace it.
Ear protection, whether muffs or molded or disposable, need cleaning or replacing regularly. For muffs or molded hearing protection, always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for maintenance. For disposable hearing protection, replace them with a new set every time you remove them.
Protect your hands with gloves that are appropriate for the Weld Process you are using. Gloves for GTAW (Tig) can be significantly different than the gloves used for FCAW. Insure heat and light can not penetrate them. Replace gloves with any holes. Replace leather gloves that shrink up so bad you can’t get your trigger finger in them. Don’t get them wet and don’t get them oily. You hands are counting on you to protect them. Choosing a glove because it’s light could be a bad decision. Choose a glove because it’s right.
Leathers, flame retardant jackets, chaps need to be free from holes and frays. Unless they can be repaired by a Leathersmith, they should be replaced. Insure they cover any cotton clothing from ultraviolet rays. A day of exposure to the welding arc can be hell on your neck, wrists or crotch (ouch). Insure your PPE protects you completely.
Finally your boots, insure they are appropriate for your welding environment. Snow and rain can be hard on leather. Waterproofing can do wonders for your feet over a 10hr day. Keep your socks dry. Keeping a fresh pair can be great around lunch time. Gravity will insure all spatter and sparks land directly on top of your boots, make sure your laces are ready for that.
And as noted in Esquire; a pumice stone to the foot and a little lotion may just keep your significant other happy and lengthen the life of your bed sheets.