Women welders are hot, and the truth is, everyone is hot. This summer we’ve seen record-breaking temperatures across the United States. But welders, working with a heated tool like a TIG/GTAW Torch or a MIG/GMAW Gun, wearing sleeves to protect from sparks and burns, and welding helmets to protect the eyes, have an increased vulnerability to heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. And if you’re part of the crew repairing the pipeline, the electric grid, the bridge, etc, you can’t always choose to stay indoors in a nice cool air-conditioned environment.
The first step in protecting yourself from the effects of the heat is to take some precautions:
Work early in the day to avoid the worst heat
Wear cotton flame retardant welding clothing
. Cotton is lightweight and breathable and long sleeves can protect you not only from the errant spark, but from the sun as well.
Hydrate! Always make sure you have plenty of water on hand. Drink before you start work and avoid caffeinated and/or carbonated drinks—caffeine dehydrates the body and carbonation can cause bloating which deters you from drinking enough water.
Replace electrolytes (lost by sweating) by drinking sports drinks or eating food.
Eat right! Choose foods rich in the fatty acids and minerals that promote a healthy endocrine system (the part of your body that regulates heat response). Good choices include leafy greens like collard greens, kale, seafood (salmon and tuna are good options) and nuts, olive oil, broccoli, kale. Some herbalists even suggest that certain herbs and spices such as pepper, turmeric, and ginger are good additions for hot weather eating.
Include fruits and vegetables naturally high in water content. The obvious choice is watermelon, but don’t forget others like pineapple, cucumbers, apples, oranges, and tomatoes.
Take regular breaks in a shaded area.
Heat exhaustion, untreated, can lead to heat stroke–evidenced by high body temperature, rapid pulse, mental confusion, difficulty breathing, and potentially even seizure or coma.
If you do notice signs of exhaustion—such as nausea, dizziness, cramps, fatigue, weakness, headache—STOP what you are doing. Find some shade, or a cool room, and drink some cold fluids.
The next step is to be sure you have the proper equipment.
Wear welding gloves with a lining that absorbs the sweat.
Invest in a Miller Heat Stress Coolbelt or a Miller Coolband Helmet Cooling System– the ultimate in high-tech heat relief from the experts at Miller.
The Coolbelt is like carrying your own personal cooling system wherever you go. It connects to your Miller Arc Armor welding helmet and can lower the temperature inside your hood by up to 17 degrees Farenheit for extreme relief, and improved productivity.
The Miller Coolband system also connects to your Miller Arc Armor welding helmet and offers a fan system that can reduce under-the-hood temperatures by up to 8 degrees Farenheit.
Wear a Cushioned Welding Helmet Sweatband
Wear a welding cap or our favorite—the BSX FireRag FR Doo Rag
For more information visit the Center for Disease Control page on heatstress, and their Tips for maintaining personal safety in the heat. Also, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Guide to Protecting Workers from the Effects of Heat (.pdf) and the OSHA Fact Sheet on Working Outdoors in Warm Climates (.pdf).
And always weld with a cool head!