A welder or welder operator is a tradesperson who specializes in welding materials together. The term welder refers to the operator, the machine is referred to as the welding power supply. The materials to be joined can be metals (such as steel, aluminum, brass, stainless steel etc.) or varieties of plastic or polymer. Welders typically have to have good dexterity and attention to detail, as well as some technical knowledge about the materials being joined and best practices in the field.
Welding, without the proper precautions appropriate for the process, can be a dangerous and unhealthy practice. However, with the use of new technology and proper protection, the risks of injury and death associated with welding can be greatly reduced. Because many common welding procedures involve an open electric arc or flame, the risk of burns is significant. To prevent them, welders wear personal protective equipment in the form of heavy leather gloves and protective long sleeve jackets to avoid exposure to extreme heat and flames. Additionally, the brightness of the weld area leads to a condition called arc eye in which ultraviolet light causes the inflammation of the cornea and can burn the retinas of the eyes. Full face welding helmets with dark face plates are worn to prevent this exposure, and in recent years, new helmet models have been produced that feature a face plate that self-darkens upon exposure to high amounts of UV light. To protect bystanders, opaque welding curtains often surround the welding area. These curtains, made of a polyvinyl chloride plastic film, shield nearby workers from exposure to the UV light from the electric arc, but should not be used to replace the filter glass used in helmets.