Although welding is a relatively safe job when performed correctly and with the correct equipment, accidents do happen. The most common type of injury suffered by welders are eye injuries, which make up around one-quarter of all welding-related injuries. Now, the power of sight is not one that anybody wants to lose, even by the slightest degree, so let's look at how these injuries occur, as well as what can be done to help prevent them.
Eye injuries sustained during welding, typically fall into one of three categories:
- Burns and irritations caused by chemicals and toxic fumes.
- Foreign bodies in the eye, and tissue damage, caused by flying debris.
- Photochemical damage and radiation from blue light, infrared radiation, and ultraviolet radiation.
The most common type of eye injury sustained from welding is the third on that list, something that is an issue with all common types of welding, photochemical damage and radiation. Almost every welder will experience 'arc eye' at some point in their careers, and while it is generally a painful, short-lived problem, it can lead to permanent damage, particularly following repeated exposure. Remember that radiation, particularly ultraviolet radiation, can travel great distances through reflection. It is common for people to sustain eye injuries from reflections well over 50 feet away.
Tips to prevent eye injuries
- Ensure the work area is clean, tidy, and free from trip hazards. A welding mask severely limits peripheral vision. Think ahead.
- Plan the work area thoroughly. Think about the placement of flammable or fragile materials.
- Cover reflective surfaces wherever possible.
- Use welding curtains when other workers are in the area.
- Advise all other workers in the area to use eye protection.
- Always use adequate eye protection. It is worth investing in quality equipment. Always replace damaged eye protection.
- Never be tempted to weld without eye protection. Using an auto-darkening helmet removes this temptation.
- Wear adequate protective clothing.
- Everyone who suffers an eye injury should be made to seek proper medical help. Infections can occur which can lead to permanent injury.
- Educate as many as possible with first aid skills.
Stay safe. Always use welding safety equipment. Never take chances with your eyes.