Yes! Welding can damage your eyes. But, can we avoid that damage? Keep reading to find out the answer.
Chronic exposure to infrared light can cause cataracts in the eyes’ lenses. It can also overheat the lens.
Welders are at a higher risk for eye injuries. This is because they must work close to the object and look down at it.
But there are ways you can overcome such a risk to your eyes as a welder.
I am a welder with over five years of welding experience. I will help you conquer this problem.
This article will give my professional opinion as a qualified welder.
I’ll explain the potential hazards you could face and how you can best handle these situations.
Can welding damage your eyes? What are the potential hazards sources to your eyes from welding?
Can welding damage your eyes? As I mentioned earlier, welding can pose severe hazards to your eyes.
So, let’s check what might cause these hazards and how to protect against them.
The welding process produces smoke that contains harmful fume and gas byproducts.
Although people usually link harmful fumes to respiratory problems. This is true. But fumes can also cause eye irritation and may lead to eye damage.
The composition of the fumes and their hazard severity will vary. But this depends on the type of welding and materials involved.
In most cases, welding fumes will cause only eye irritation.
But in some cases, it could release toxic substances and cause eye damage. Such circumstances include stainless steel welding.
Foreign bodies can be anything from pieces of metal to:
- Welding sparks;
- Slags (during chipping);
- Flying particles from grinding; or
- Cutting (either plasma cutting or chop saw).
According to research published by BMJ in 2005, eye injuries account for 25% of all other welding-related injuries. And foreign bodies cause 71.7%.
So, you can see now that these injuries are NO Joke!
Yes! You read it correctly. The welding process can emit some radiation. But, don’t panic, it’s not nuclear radiation!
Arc welding produces three types of radiation:
- Ultraviolet radiation (UV);
- Visible light; and
Out of these three, UV radiation usually pops up in welders’ minds when they hear the word radiation.
Ultraviolet radiation (UV)
UV radiation is electromagnetic radiation that a welding arc produces. This is with a wavelength range of about 10 to 400 nm.
UV radiation carries energy that can be harmful to the eye.
Welder’s flash (Photokeratitis)
Other names describing the exact painful eye injury UV radiation causes are:
- Welder’s flash;
- Flash burn; and
- Arc eye.
In the medical community, they call it “Photokeratitis.”
Photokeratitis does not infect welders only.
Others that can get affected are:
- Skiers; or
- Mountain climbers.
That is because of their exposure to UV radiation.
Effect of welder’s flash (Photokeratitis)
You may notice mild irritation in your eyes. You know the feeling when an eyelash or any tiny thing gets into your eye. It’s almost the same feeling.
For more severe cases, It might feel like sand in your eye, along with pain and redness in the eye and tearing.
Also, you may feel that your eye becomes more sensitive to light, and your vision blurs.
Some potential symptoms of photokeratitis are:
- Losing vision for some time; and
- Experiencing color changes in your sight.
But they are rare and unlikely to happen.
How long does it take for arc eye symptoms to appear?
Most times, there will be a delay between exposure to the source of UV and the presence of symptoms of about 6 to 12 hours.
Depending on the intensity, the symptoms may appear as early as 30 minutes after the exposure.
Is the welder’s flash injury permanent?
Welder’s flash usually resolves on its own after around 24 to 48 hours.
It could take up to five to seven days for symptoms to resolve completely in severe cases.
But prolonged exposure to intense UV radiation can lead to serious eye diseases such as:
So, always bear in mind –prevention is better than cure.
Welder’s flash treatment
Treatment for welder’s flash usually involves:
- Artificial tear drops;
- Cool packs or compresses; and
- Lubricants to relieve the symptoms.
Treatment may also mandate dilating drops to:
- Reduce pain
- Lessen photosensitive; and
- Let your eye get enough rest to heal.
Such drops include:
- Cycling gel; and
For more severe cases, your doctor may recommend antibiotic drops or ointment to help in healing and prevent infection. So do well to consult him.
What about home remedies?
Besides medical aid, some home remedies may help speed up recovery from welder’s flash (Arc eye). Below are some ideas.
Cucumber: Cucumber can be exceptionally hydrating to the affected area because of its high water content.
Bananas: Vitamin B2 in bananas aid the treatment of inflammation.
It also helps with eye fatigue and lubricates the eyes to prevent flaking and dryness.
Milk: Milk possesses natural enzymes that help care for the dryness and discomfort caused by welder’s flash.
Rosewater: Rosewater can reduce the degree of discomfort and pain that you feel.
Castor Oil: Castor oil helps to preserve moisture and increase the production of lipids in the eyes. Such reduces the evaporation of tears.
Soaked Cloth: A wet cloth relieves the swelling and pain caused by the welder’s flash.
Ice Packs: Ice packs help reduce the pain and swelling in an injured eye and redness and inflammation.
Almond Oil: Because of their high vitamin E content, almonds help to soothe irritated eyes. This prevents burning, weariness, and inflammation.
Further eye injuries include:
Blue light hazard
Blue light hazard occurs due to the risk of retinal damage due to visible light.
Electromagnetic waves can damage your retinal sensitivity with wavelengths between 400 to 500 nm or high-frequency light waves.
Macular degeneration and cataracts
If you get exposed to UV rays a lot while you are younger, there’s a high chance of having Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
But cataracts are still possible even though welding is unlikely to cause them.
These issues are usually preventable. But if left untreated, they have a high chance of leading to eventual blindness.
Tips for protecting your eyes while welding
Most eye injuries from welding occur due to a single lapse in judgment. Not because of an inherent danger of the activity itself.
The good news is that there are simple ways to protect your eyes while welding so you won’t get injured.
Read safety recommendations
The majority of eye injuries happen when welders don’t follow safety regulations.
As a welder, you should spend some time reading safety literature. This is to familiarize yourself with the safe practices of welding.
For example, reading simple face shield instructions can prevent serious eye injuries.
Besides reading safety regulations, you can also visit welding safety websites to review more material.
You can also get advice from other welders.
Take care of the surrounding area.
If you’re welding outdoors, clean up your welding area properly.
Spark burn-off and debris from welding can accumulate in the surrounding area. It results in a hazardous environment.
Contaminated areas can also cause splatter to enter your eyes, resulting in an injury quickly.
While welding, ensure all combustible materials are away from the welding area.
Additionally, make sure that power cords are not near the welding area. Accidents often occur when the wind moves cords or someone walking near the welding area.
Make sure the grinder has its guards.
Welders often use grinders to grind weld electrodes.
Grinding electrodes is dangerous because it generates sparks.
Hence, the importance of having a grinding guard.
Grinding guards are made of steel or exterior plastic material. Lined with rubber, they function as a shield against sparks and debris.
Grinding guards are often used outdoors.
Unfortunately, many grinders don’t come with these protective guards.
You should check the manufacturer manual to ensure that the machine has installed proper guards.
Some grinders have a guard that you can flip up. But it is crucial to ensure you don’t flip the guard up completely.
Wear proper safety equipment
Wearing appropriate safety equipment is essential when welding.
They designed welding helmets to protect your head from injury. That is why it’s the first safety equipment you need.
All ANSI Z87.1-certified helmets can protect you against ultraviolet and infrared radiation.
Safety glasses with total UV
No doubt, you do much work with your helmet up. That is why a helmet alone is not enough to safeguard your eyes.
Make sure you also wear full UV protection sunglasses.
Be sure to buy UV-protected sunglasses, not the cheapest pair you can find.
You may choose between clear or shaded glasses, depending on your preference.
Always remember that wearing safety glasses at all times under the helmet will provide an extra layer of protection against UV light and flying debris.
Replace old equipment
An essential welding safety measure is ensuring that you are welding safely.
It may not be easy to replace old equipment. But it is always worth replacing the most dangerous pieces of equipment in your welding set.
Newer, more advanced welding machines are usually the safest.
Still, the more basic the welding machine, the more dangerous it is likely to be.
Newer machines have more effective shielding systems and more reliable welding programs. This reduces the risk of causing an injury.
So when purchasing new welding equipment, look for more advanced shielding systems and programs.
You can find these features listed on the product box or warranty information.
When welding outdoors, it is crucial to use ventilation.
Ventilation prevents fumes and sparks from accumulating in the surrounding area.
Well-ventilated areas offer less risk of causing eye injuries to you. This is because fumes are less likely to accumulate.
The tendency to damage your eyes during your welding career
You will confront more demanding jobs and new welding machines as your career progresses.
Such machines come with different settings and hazards.
We can’t overstate the dangers of our job as welders.
In 2014, nearly 2,000 welders took at least a day from work due to eye injuries.
Also, researchers at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety found that eye injuries cause one-quarter of all welding injuries. By far outnumbering all other types of damages.
This is why you need to follow all precautionary measures stated above.
Most welders report that following all safety guidance has kept them in the space for so long.
Obeying all recommendations in this article will do you much good. This is as a welder who wants to thrive without damaging your eyes.