Welders Galore

Welders Galore

A Guide to the History of Welding Helmets

The History of Welding Helmets starts with primitive leather welding masks to advanced modern auto-darkening helmets. Welding helmets have come a long way since the late 1800s. As Welding is a hazardous job requiring proper safety equipment. And a welding helmet is one of the most important pieces of equipment. Not only does it protect the welder’s eyesight from damaging UV rays, but it stops intense heat and sparks from damaging the skin.

Over the years, welding helmets have undergone significant changes to improve safety and comfort for the user.

Older Style welding Helmet
Older Style welding Helmet

This article will take a comprehensive look at the history of welding helmets. You will learn about the different types of helmets used throughout history and how technological advancements have revolutionized the development of modern welding helmets.

Whether you are a welder or simply interested in the history of safety equipment, this article will provide a fascinating insight into the development of welding helmets.

Early Welding Helmets

Modern-day welding started in the 1800s. At the time, little was offered in the way of eye protection.

The first type of welding involved arc welding, which created a great amount of heat and intense light. This new manufacturing process threw up a lot of sparks, hot metals, gasses, and intense light. As a result, welders often suffered numerous eye injuries, including temporary or permanent vision loss caused by harmful UV rays and sparks resulting from the welding arc.

The first type of safety equipment to protect a welder’s eyes was developed in 1880. A man called Powell Johnson created “eye protectors” that used glass and opaque cloth. The glasses stopped sparks from damaging eyes, and the opaque cloth reduced light intensity but still allowed the welder to see. 

It was soon discovered that more was needed than simple eye protection. Protecting the entire face from flying sparks was necessary to prevent severe burns. Also, the intense UV rays cause a sunburn-like condition on the skin.

The first type of welder’s helmets looked like large leather hoods with a darkened visor or shade lens. However, these were uncomfortable because they got hot and sweaty inside.

The First Welding Helmet

In 1937, Willson Products created the first welding helmet. This invention was a major breakthrough in the welding industry because it protected the welder’s face, lungs, head, and ears. The helmet was exceptionally rugged and could withstand hard shop use. In addition, it was revolutionary because it provided one-piece all-around head protection.

For the next 43 years, little progress was made in advancing the style of welding helmets. Until the 1980s, welding helmets followed a similar design to the one invented in 1937.

Advancements in Welding Helmet Technology

The history of welding helmets has been full of exciting advancements over the years. But it wasn’t until the early 1980s that a revolutionary design became a feature of welding helmets—auto-darkening filters.

Modern Auto Darkening welding helmet
Modern Auto Darkening welding helmet

In 1981, the Speedglass Auto-Darkening Filter hit the market. This is one of the most significant advancements in welding helmet technology. The electronic LCD shutter in the lens darkens automatically when a welding arc is detected. Which eliminates the need for welders to frequently adjust the helmet’s position or remove it to view their work.

Therefore, an auto-darkening electronic welding helmet gives welders more protection, allowing them to weld with better accuracy. 

Advancements in ergonomics and comfort have also resulted in significant improvements in welding helmet technology. As a result, modern electronic welding helmets more resemble a Formula 1 racing driver’s helmet than the one invented by Willson Products. 

Here is a list of some of the most significant advancements in the modern history of welding helmets:

·        Wider lenses to accommodate a larger viewing area. 

·        Lighter design to reduce welder fatigue.

·        Variable darkening levels for different types of welding.

·        Memory functions for multiple welding purposes.

·        Incorporated fan and filtration to prevent inhaling toxic gases.

·        Arc tracking to measure “arc-on” time, helpful for calculating productivity.

One of the ways modern welding helmets surpass older models is through improvements in ergonomics and comfort. However, a well-fitting helmet is not just for comfort—it is vital to protect exposed skin from spatter or UV burns during welding. For example, the headgear should be fully adjustable, use cushioned material, prevent condensation, and be breathable.  

Generally, the best welding helmets are lightweight, better fitting, and more comfortable than older models. In addition, they incorporate better features to protect welders from eye damage, UV damage, and other safety hazards. And with larger viewing screens and true color technology, welders can produce work with better accuracy. 

Notable Innovations in Welding Helmet Design

Innovative safety design and features have reduced many health risks associated with welding. For example, studies show that inhaling welding fumes can cause several types of respiratory problems if there is no adequate ventilation available. In addition, some of the best innovations in welding helmet design are built-in respirators and helmets with communication capabilities.

Welding helmets with respirators

The most advanced welding helmets have one of two types of safety features—a built-in respirator or a powered air-purifying respirator. 

Half-mask respirators

History of welding Helmets

Fumes and particles produced during MIG welding can be harmful to your health. The simplest respirator masks help filter potentially dangerous particles that you could inhale. These respirators fit comfortably under most welding helmets.

Respirators contain P100 filters that remove 99.97% of airborne particles, including mists, metal fumes, and dust particles. They are also designed to fit underneath professional welding masks. 

One thing to note is that they can be awkward to wear for extended periods. 

Powered air-purifying respirators

The best respirators for welders are ones providing a constant supply of fresh air in the helmet. Usually, the blower units and HEPA filters are on a belt attachment and connected to the helmet by a flexible tube. Additionally, top-class welding helmets have an integrated grind shield, adjustable air speed, and high-definition optics. 

The benefit of powered air-purifying respirators is that you have constant fresh air while working. Also, the lift-to-talk assembly allows the user to lift the front of the visor to communicate without removing the entire helmet. 

Welding helmets with communication capabilities

Some of the latest welding helmets are equipped with communication capabilities. These types of helmets have wireless communication capabilities, allowing welders to talk with each other while they work. This feature is useful for large, noisy fabrication workplaces. It also reduces the need to remove the helmet to communicate.

Here are some other innovative communication features of modern welding helmets:

·        Video recording

·        On-board data storage

·        Bluetooth connectivity

Welding Helmet Safety

Safety is vital when welding and a good quality welding helmet is vital. Therefore, choosing a welding helmet that meets current safety standards is vital. It would be best to consider your current and future needs to make an informed decision. Then find the right welding helmet that will protect your eyes, face, and head for the type of welding you do.

welding helmet with all around head protection

Here are a few things to consider: 

·        Safety standards and regulations—You must ensure the helmet meets the safety standards appropriate to your country. For example, in the USA, all welding helmets must meet standards as per regulations ANSI Z87.1 – 2003. Therefore, this number, or Z87+, should be on the helmet packaging. 

·        Helmet weight—If you weld for several hours a day, it’s worth investing in a high-quality lightweight helmet. These prevent neck strain, fatigue, and discomfort. Some of the best professional helmets weigh as little as 20 oz. 

·        Comfort—Ensure that the welding helmet has fully adjustable headgear. This makes the helmet easier to wear and helps prevent accidents.

·        Type of lens—Lens technology has come a long way since the early 1900s. The best helmets provide a wide range of vision, including accurate color technology. This reduces eye fatigue because you get a clear picture of your weld rather than a fuzzy one.

·        Grind shield—A incorporated grind shield is ideal in the best welding helmets. This clear shield is accessible when you lift the front lens without removing the helmet. 


Welding helmet design has come a long way since its early days. With innovations like auto-darkening filters, built-in respirators, and wider viewing angles, modern welding helmets allow welders to work more efficiently and safely than ever before.

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