Welding is a trade that was born thousands of years ago but exploded in popularity during the industrial revolution and has only grown since then. The art of fusing metal has never been easier. As technology and infrastructure evolve so do the health concerns of certain professions. Creating heat so hot that you can melt metal easily alerts you of the burning concern but did you know that welding can damage your eyes? The short answer is “yes”. Welding is bad for your eyes but it’s more than just being blinded by a bright light. There are many hazards and the need to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) for your eyes.
What Damages Your Eyes in Welding?
The bright sparks are one of the most common yet easily preventable welding eye injuries. Illumination is the cause of 80% of eye injuries in the welding field. Welding arcs burn over 50% brighter than the sun’s brightness. This is bright enough to cause an immediate reaction but also long-time exposure can cause permanent damage.
Flying debris and molten metal is the next biggest concern when welding. Not all metal is immediately melted down when welding. Some of it pops and splatters and if you’re not wearing the proper PPE, your eyes will be the target of their pain. Not all metal will bring instant harm. Small scraps of metal can get in your eyes and you do not feel it. Over time, it will slowly scratch your eye lining and damage your cornea or retina.
The final form of damage to your eyes comes from fumes. When melting metal, some fumes from the original melting process can be released. These fumes get into your eyes and dry them out or have chemical reactions. Blinking will not stop fumes from getting in and without the proper ventilation, the fumes will continue to irritate your eyes.
What Types of Radiation is Associated With Welding?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the types of radiation associated with welding. UV is a form of electromagnetic radiation that causes damage to the eyes. UV radiation is what causes tans, sunburns, and skin cancer. Sunburns suck enough on your arm and face. Imagine what it feels like on your eyeballs that are constantly moving and being touched by eyelids.
Infrared (IR) radiation is the other type. IR is also electromagnetic but it is invisible to the naked eye. IR radiation can cause redness, swelling, and hemorrhaging. Because of IR being invisible, many do not realize how often their eyes are being exposed to it. Wear PPE even when you are not directly welding. If you’re in the workshop, you should be wearing them.
What are the Symptoms of “Arc Eye”?
“Arc Eye” is a condition brought on by long-term exposure to UV radiation. Most welders don’t know they have it until hours later. Symptoms of arc eye include pain ranging from sensation similar to sand in your eye all the way to intense pain. Your eyes will be redding and tearing up. Sensitivity to light and the inability to look directly at light sources will be almost a sure indication of arc eye.
Also Read: How Dangerous is Underwater Welding?
How to Protect Your Eyes When Welding
There is only one way to protect your eyes while welding. That is the proper face mask. Your PPE should be shaded 10 to 13 to protect your eyes. Always have your mask down before sparking your welding rod. If you are concerned about messing up your metal, make sure your rod is directly in the path of when you spark your rod. After sparking, your rod should immediately fall into line with where you need your welding bead. This prevents you from having to remove your mask and putting your eyes at risk.
How to Treat Welders Flash
Even with the proper PPE, there can be accidents. “Arc eye” also known as “welder’s flash” is a common injury from welding. Welder’s flash is a sunburn on your eye. You can purchase over-the-counter eye drops for dilating eye drops. If you are on a budget, you can use tea bags for it. Take chamomile or green tea bags and boil them for three minutes. After boiling, cool them in a refrigerator until cooled down enough to place directly on your eyes for 15 minutes. Do this twice a day until eyes begin to heal. For an extra health boost, you can drink the actual tea to improve tear duct production which removes impurities from your eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can welding cause blindness?
Yes, welding can cause blindness. Prolonged exposure to light radiation and molten metal can cause serious damage to temporarily or permanently blind you.
What type of helmet should I use?
You should use any OSHA-approved welding helmet. If you can’t find an OSHA-approved helmet, find any mask that between 10 and 13 tint.
What other equipment should I wear?
PPE should always include your helmet, gloves, and either a welding apron or suit to protect your clothes and skin from molten metal. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes.
Protect your eyes and your skin from welding. For any other welding tips or safety concerns, check out our website.