Air Fed Welding Masks & Welding Helmets

Air Fed Welding Masks & Welding Helmets

What does a welding helmet protect you from?

Choosing the right product is critical for adequate protection of the welder's eyes and face from sparks, ultraviolet and infrared rays but also welding fumes as well. Comfort is important especially when welding for long periods of time. Please see below some recent advice and guidance which we feel you will find helpful when making this decision in finding the correct welding mask for your application, and whether an air fed welding mask should be a priority.

How does an air fed welding mask work?

A welding mask is connected to a respirator unit via an air tube. The unit is clipped around the waist and powered by a battery which pulls the air through a tube into the respirator unit via a filter, preventing the welder from inhaling harmful gases. Clean air is then fed into the welders mask.

Are air fed welding masks required by law?

With immediate effect, there is a strengthening of HSE's enforcement expectation for all welding fume, including mild steel welding; because general ventilation does not achieve the necessary control.

Action Required;

  • Make sure exposure to any fume released is adequately controlled using engineering controls (typically LEV)

  • Make sure suitable controls are provided for all welding activities, irrelevant of duration. This includes outdoor use

  • Where engineering controls alone cannot control exposure, then adequate and suitable RPE should be provided to control risk from any residual fume

  • Make sure all engineering controls are correctly used, suitably maintained and are subject to thorough examination and tests where required

  • Make sure any RPE is subject to an RPE programme. An RPE programme encapsulates all the elements of RPE use you need to ensure that your RPE is effective in protecting the wearer

Details regarding the above are provided below.


Should I buy an air fed welding mask? In February 2019 the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) issued Bulletin Number: STSU1 – 2019. In this bulletin, they outlay the serious dangers of exposure to fumes. The result is a change in HSE enforcement expectations in relation to the control of exposure to fumes, including that from mild steel welding. Consequently, if you are looking to purchase a welding helmet, then we strongly advise that you consider an air fed version.

Should I use air fed welding masks with LEV already in place? The HSE state in their bulletin Number STSU1 – 2019, “where LEV alone does not adequately control exposure, it should be supplemented by adequate and suitable respiratory protective equipment (RPE) to protect against the residual fume.” In reality LEV (Local Exhaust Ventilation) units such as mobile fume extractors are often not adequate to remove enough fume due to access restrictions. Also, the fact that they constantly need repositioning so as to function correctly during prolonged welds or if the fabrication process involves changing location of the process. In these situations, air fed with an adequate filtration system are the most suitable form of RPE available to offer the level of protection required.

What level of protection do I need when choosing an air fed welding helmet? When choosing air fed it is important that the correct filtration efficiency is chosen offering you the level of protection required. The Max-Arc MK11 and MK12 PAPR units offer in excess of 99.8% filtration efficiency, making air fed a safe choice in the environment.

What type of welding lens is the best?

Passive Welding Lenses - Many welders still prefer a passive welding lens, although as auto-darkening welding lens technology has advanced, more and more welders can see the benefit of this more recent technology, and have moved on, especially as the price of this technology has reduced significantly.

Auto Darkening Lenses - Auto darkening lenses are the most high tech and known to be the best, if the more expensive option. Auto darkening is as the name suggests. The lens will automatically alter the tint as soon as the arc is struck and the bright light hits the sensors near the lens, maximising visibility for the welder and maximising protection from ultraviolet and infrared rays. This happens in milliseconds so there isn't any damage to the eye.

When the helmet is not in use, the lens will be at a shade roughly similar to sunglasses, easily usable when not welding, this of course removes the need to flip the helmet up and down.

Auto darkening lenses come with either fixed or variable shade. Fixed shade lenses are usually best for one kind of use (welding process, metal being welded etc.) as the shade doesn't vary. Variable shade lenses are best for varying tasks that create different degrees of brightness in the arc. The user can adjust the shade level to the application on the fly. Variable shade lenses also help cater for those with particularly high or low bright light tolerance.

Switching speed (also known as lens reaction time) is important too. Basic lenses often are rated at 1/3,600 of a second switching speed. Superior lenses and those for the professional can switch at far quicker speeds - 1/16,000 or more. A faster switching lens is more comfortable and leads to less stress & fatigue for the users' eyes. This will help at the end of the day, when the task is over, otherwise the welders' eyes may feel dry and sore.

It's generally best to find high quality products that have a response darkening time of 4/10ths of a millisecond or more. Less than a millisecond is not perceivable by the human eye and will provide the most comfort, but of course will be more costly.

Welding Helmet Features

Lightweight is always preferable, especially for long periods of use. High quality welding helmets generally utilise low weight materials that are usually stronger too.

A helmet featuring a sensor bar is also very useful. With this feature, it will limit the field of response so the helmet will not be triggered by those in close proximity, this feature is not necessarily needed if the user is in a single welding bay or by themselves. However, for large workshops, it is heavily recommended.

A clear spatter shield over the optics provides the best optical clarity so you can see clearly, protecting the helmet from damage. In addition, a helmet that is fully adjustable is usually a good idea. This means the user can adjust how close the helmet is to the users face, which is when wearing glasses.

Auto-darkening often have the ability to adjust how much brightness will trigger the lens to darken in response. Sensitivity control is useful when welding at low amperages such as with TIG, when the arc isn't as bright as it is with other welding processes. It is best to consider your needs as a user and whether you require this.

Always search for a reputable manufacturer that offers a warranty and replacement parts. We offer reliable and well-known brands such as Miller, ESAB, 3M Speedglas, Balder, Fronius as well as free expert technical support so you get the perfect welding mask for your needs. By opening an account you will gain access to live stock levels on our website for important spare parts, lenses, and so on. We also offer UK next day delivery, international shipping and tracking for all orders. Utilise 20+ years of experience by calling us free on 0800 975 9710.

Please note that all welding helmets can be damaged with improper use. Cracks can compromise protection from harmful rays, thus, it helps to purchase from a quality manufacturer.

© 2021 AES Industrial Supplies Limited

Company number: 07988136 Registered Office: Olympic House Collett, Southmead Park, Didcot, Oxon, England, OX11 7WB


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