Welding curtains are screens, treated to absorb ultraviolet radiation, that can be set up around a welding work station to protect people in the area. Most forms of welding produce a bright flash of light that can be harmful to workers and bystanders. Short-term dangers include flash burns to the eyes, while long-term exposure to the ultraviolet radiation produced during welding can cause cancer. While a safe welder should always be wearing the proper face shield and safety goggles when working, bystanders and others working nearby may not always have the same protection. This is why welding curtains are important.
Welding curtains should be manufactured and used in compliance with local or regional safety requirements. In the United States, their use is required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulation 29 CFR, Part 1910.252(b)(2)(iii). No matter where welding curtains are used, they must protect workers and others in the area from ultraviolet radiation, be noncombustible or flameproof, and they must not restrict ventilation.
While welding curtains may be permanently installed, many of them are portable, allowing people to configure their work areas to suit the job at hand. Some curtains are designed to hang from a rod on rings, like a shower curtain, so they can be opened or closed as needed. Another type of curtain is a welding screen, which is made of ultraviolet-resistant material that is stretched across a metal or plastic frame. Welding screens often have wheels to allow them to be moved easily.
The color of the curtain material is important; different colors absorb different frequencies of radiation and blue light. For example, yellow curtains are good for low-amperage welding, while green curtains are suitable for medium-amperage welding. A well-stocked shop will have screening material available for all types of welding performed there. Most screening material is transparent, allowing workers to see their surroundings.
Welding produces hot sparks and metal debris that can ignite a fire. This is why the material in a welding curtain must be flameproof. They must also be set up in a way that does not restrict emergency exit routes in the event of a fire.
When hanging or arranging welding curtains, always leave enough space at the bottom to allow fumes to ventilate out of the work area and clean air to flow in. Welding curtains should also be designed to interlock or overlap, preventing radiation from escaping at corners and areas where two screens meet. Welding curtains should at least be large enough to screen the area where the welding is performed.