Someone who can WELD things well on site is a huge asset to the company and getting thing done correctly, but they come with a safety note regarding FLASH BURNS and Eye Care or Risk to EYE CARE!
Welding arcs give off radiation over a broad range of wavelengths – from 200 nm (nanometres) to 1,400 nm (or 0.2 to 1.4 µm, micometres). This includes ultraviolet (UV) radiation (200 to 400 nm), visible light (400 to 700 nm), and infrared (IR) radiation (700 to 1,400 nm). UV-radiation is divided into three ranges – UV-A (315 to 400 nm), UV-B (280 to 315 nm) and UV-C (100 to 280 nm). UV-C and almost all UV-B are absorbed in the cornea of the eye. UV-A passes through cornea and is absorbed in the lens of the eye. Some UV radiation, visible light, and IR radiation can reach the retina.
And yes, Welding is one of the most hazardous occupations in construction. Traditionally, welders had to fear workplace injury from burns, electricity, and “welder’s flash” (blinding and diminished vision, see below). Recent studies have shown that toxic chemicals released from welding rods put welders at an additional workplace risk for less immediate but no less serious conditions of lung, brain, and nerve damage, such as manganism (Welders’ Parkinson’s disease).
The heat necessary for a weld is intense, and the dangers of welding injuries great. Spatter (hot metal) and sparks from the weld can cause second- and third-degree burns and ignite materials, including clothing. Before beginning any weld, make sure a Class C fire (“electrical fire”) extinguisher is nearby. Never use water because a lead’s electricity and water don’t mix. After any weld, the area should be observed to make sure the residual heat from the weld does not cause workplace fires and explosions.
Electrical shock is possible whenever electricity is present. Commonly confused by apprentice rod welders, the “ground connection” does not mean a “work lead” (the cable coming from the power supply connecting to what is to be welded).
Arc radiation and welder’s flash
Welder’s Flash is one of the welding injuries that occur from the intense ultraviolet light, produced from the arc ray. Skin exposed during welding can develop sunburns from this radiation. Welders not given proper eye protection, or not keeping a safe distance from the arc, can develop a painful condition known as welder’s flash. These welding injuries are also knows as Arc Eye, or Flash Burns.
Symptoms of welder’s flash include tearing eyes, light sensitivity, and even intense burning from eyes that feel constantly dry. Welder’s flash symptoms typically occur a few hours after exposure and disappear within a day-and-a-half. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops/ointments to prevent eye infection and pain killers. Sometimes an eye patch is required. Although rare, arc radiation can penetrate the retina and cause permanent retinal damage, including cataracts, diminished vision, and higher sensitivity to light. For many, the worst part of welding injuries, are the number of days missed, especially if these are unpaid.
Because of smoke and glare, welders sometimes position their heads too close to the arc and increase the risk for welder’s flash. Wearing cheaters (safety reading glasses) under the hood lets the welder get a better look at the weld and gauge distance. Auto-darkening helmets both protect the welder’s eyes and also prevent weld defects as the welder can better see to position the gun or electrode while the helmet is down. What are the symptoms? • Pain that may be mild to very severe. • Bloodshot eyes. • Being sensitive to light. • Watery eyes. • Blurred vision. • A feeling there is something in your eye (usually both eyes).
First Aid Stories from the field!!!! Flashburn feels like you eyes have sand in them, and is painful. I would tend to think you have gotten something in it if its only in one area of one eye. Probably wouldnt hurt to see a doctor if it persists. Flash burn feels like someone shot you in the face with pepper spray. I got burnt once and woke up a 2 am with what felt like acid in my eyes. Nothing I could do would would relieve the pain i just had the let it run it’s course. Took about twenty minutes to settle down felt like forever. Once got some welding flash into your eyes, you will tend to get watery eyes, painful eyes, as well as photophobia sometimes. The flash would lead to a dramatic drop in your vision for sometime, so you need to take care of it right away. If lucky and treatment is received, it might last about 2 weeks before you are recovered,
Long-term exposure to UV light can produce cataracts in some persons.
Visible light from welding processes is very bright and can overwhelm the ability of the iris of the eye to close sufficiently and rapidly enough to limit the brightness of the light reaching the retina. The result is that the light is temporarily blinding and fatiguing to the eye.
A serious concern is the “blue light hazard” which is the temporary or permanent scarring of the retina due to its sensitivity to blue light, around 440 nm wavelength. Blindness may result.
Exposure to infrared light can heat the lens of the eye and produce cataracts over the long term. A flash burn occurs when you are exposed to bright ultraviolet (UV) light. It can happen in all types of UV light but is most common among welders (sometimes called ‘Welder’s flash’ or ‘Arc eye’). Flash burns cause a painful inflammation of the cornea (the clear tissue that covers the front of the eye), which is like sunburn in the eye, and can affect both your eyes. What causes fl ash burns? • You can receive a flash burn after being exposed to UV light from various sources. • A welding torch. • Direct sunlight. • Reflection of the sun off water or snow. • A sunlamp (in a tanning salon). • Some types of lamps (halogen or a photographer’s flood lamp). • Lightning. • Explosion. • Solar eclipse (looking directly at the sun for a prolonged period of time).
Certain types of UV radiation can produce an injury to the surface and mucous membrane (conjunctiva) of the eye called “arc eye,” “welders’ eye” or “arc flash.” These names are common names for “conjunctivitis” – an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the front of the eye. The symptoms include:
- pain – ranging from a mild feeling of pressure in the eyes to intense pain in severe instances
- tearing and reddening of the eye and membranes around the eye
- sensation of “sand in the eye” or abnormal sensitivity to light
- inability to look at light sources (photophobia)
The amount of time required to cause these effects depends on several factors such as the intensity of the radiation, the distance from the welding arc, the angle at which the radiation enters the eye, and type of eye protection that the welder or bystander is using. However, exposure to just a few seconds of intense UV light can cause arc eye. These symptoms may not be felt until several hours after exposure. See your local doctor or health care professional if you: • Have blurred vision • Notice a change in vision • See spots or flashes of light • Have pain when moving your eyes • Have worsening pain after 24 hours • Or you are concerned for any other reason