How to Select the Correct Welding Shade

DEC 19

How to Select the Correct Welding Shade

By cosmick

Whether you are a new welder or have been a welder for some time, it is absolutely critical to protect yourself with the right welding shade when you are working. There are several dangers associated with welding, but some of the more notable center on your exposure to metal fumes and ultraviolet (“UV”), infrared (“IR”), and intense visible light. Injuries that can result from this exposure include eye damage, burns, injuries to your toes and fingers, and more. And the worst part about some of these injuries (like light-related injuries)?

Since you can’t see UV or IR with the naked eye, you may not even be aware that your eyes are suffering temporary or even permanent damage.  Because of this, you must take all of the necessary precautions to be as safe as possible when completing your welding work. Without doing so, you are putting yourself at extreme risk for the injuries listed above. While there are several different precautions that you can (and should take), one of the best is to purchase and use a welding shade.

Welding shades can help protect your eyes in even the most challenging of conditions. This much is clear. But at this point, you may be asking yourself: “How do I know which welding shade is best for me?” We are here to help. In this article, you will better understand how to select the correct welding shade. In the end, you will have all of the confidence you need to make your final purchase.  

The Basics About Welding Shades 

If you are a new welder or are purchasing your first welding shades, it is important to understand some of the basics about why they are so effective. Welding shades are very dark filters that let you look safely at the welding arc. Through this, you can produce a quality welded seam for your company. Welding shades are an extremely critical part of your job, as the light that is given off during most welding processes is as bright as the sun.  

While we will discuss the specifics of the shades themselves below, it is important to note that welding shades can be found in different types of eyewear. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), you can find welding shades in things like safety glasses, goggles, welding helmets, or welding face shields. In all likelihood, you will be taking advantage of either of the latter two options. With that understanding, let’s return to welding shades themselves.

When choosing the specific welding shade for your work, it is important to take note of the type of welding application. This is the main factor in determining what welding shade you will need. Ultimately, to find the best welding shade, you will want to look at the guidance provided by OSHA. By clicking here, you will find a two-page document distributed by OSHA which provides everything that you will need. 

OSHA Guidance 

Before exploring the document itself, however, it is important to note that OSHA recommends that welders start with a shade that is too dark to see the weld zone. From there, welders should proceed to find a lighter shade that allows for a sufficient view of the weld zone while simultaneously not going below the minimum recommended protective shade in the document cited above. Essentially, OSHA is trying to be conservative here. It wants you to find a welding shade that is too dark and to slowly inch your way up until you can sufficiently see the weld zone. Just keep this guidance in mind as you are thinking about the particular welding shade for your purposes. 

By looking at OSHA’s guidance (which, again, you can find by clicking here), you can see that the shade number indicates the intensity of light radiation that is allowed to pass through a filter to your eyes. According to OSHA, the higher the shade number, the darker the filter and the less light radiation that passes through the lens. Importantly, the tables on this OSHA fact sheet provide the minimum protective lens shade numbers, so keep that in mind. Table one on OSHA’s guidance includes filter lenses for protection during shielded metal arc welding.

Table two includes filter lenses for gas welding and oxygen cutting operations. And table three includes filter lenses for protection during other welding and cutting operations. You will want to closely review these tables to determine which operation is most applicable to you. From there, you will see some relevant information depending on your job function. But in all three tables, there is a column labeled “OSHA Minimum Protective Shade Number” and another column labeled “ANSI & AWS Shade Number Recommendations.”

The ANSI & AWS columns provide an additional perspective on the welding shade number that is best for your work, but at the very least, you will want to find a welding shade that is no smaller than the number in the OSHA column. This one sheet is a terrific starting point when purchasing the correct welding shade.

In fact, if you aren’t the person purchasing your welding shade, you will want to ensure that the equipment provided to you contains a shade that is at least the number provided in the OSHA Minimum Protective Shade Number column. Doing so will ensure that your eyes are not harmed when you and your colleagues are completing your work. 

Additional Equipment 

As stated above, the welding shade itself is used in conjunction with equipment like welding face shields, welding helmets, or welding goggles. It is important to use your discretion here. Some face shields contain removable filter plates, so you will then be able to insert the appropriate welding shade in order to protect yourself. You may also take advantage of welding helmets with autodarkening lenses.

These can be an especially attractive option if you perform a wide range of welding operations that require different welding shades. When using this equipment (or any other type of equipment), you will want to be absolutely sure that your chosen welding shades comply with the OSHA guidelines. This isn’t the type of task where you want to take a chance or choose welding shades that are simply “good enough.”

Because the light from welding can be invisible yet extremely intense, you will want to take all necessary precautions to protect your eyesight. While it may seem like overkill at the time, taking the proper precautions now can save you from severe medical injuries. 

Tread Carefully

 For most, becoming a welder is a terrific career decision. You get to see your completed work in front of you and you make a real difference in people’s lives. In order to do your job to the best of your ability (and to protect yourself), you need to make certain investments. While these investments will hit your pocketbook right away, they will undoubtedly pay off in the future. And we’re not just discussing this in a financial sense.

By investing in welding shades, you will have the confidence that your eyes are sufficiently protected, giving you peace of mind to complete your best work. At Phillips Safety Products, we love working with welders to ensure that their eyes are sufficiently protected. To learn more about how we can help you, don’t hesitate to visit our website

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