When getting into welding as a profession or even just a hobby for DIY projects, it is crucial to understand the potential hazards you have to deal with, such as eye damages. Although eye damage and injury are among the most discussed welding hazards, many welders still do not understand the issue’s gravity and do not take it seriously enough.
Does Welding Damage Your Eyes?
According to a publication on the Industrial Safety and Hygiene News, almost 2,000 welders took at least a day off in 2014 due to eye injuries. This publication is a clear indication that if you do not take proper safety precautions when welding, it can lead to eye issues. The eye damages can occur regardless of the kind of welding you are doing or the tools you are using.
Some of the damages can be minor and reversible, while others can be pretty serious, possibly even leading to permanent eyesight loss.
Eye damages when welding is often a result of UV radiation or flying welding debris and sometimes even both. But the good news is that while welding can damage eyes, all potential damages are preventable.
Welding UV Radiation Damage
All kinds of welding will produce some form of ultraviolet and infrared radiation, which can pose the greatest danger to your eyes if you do not take precautions to protect against them. Here are some of the potential UV radiation damages welders can suffer
1. Photokeratitis: UV radiation damage can occur when you burn your eyes as you weld, which leads to a problem referred to as Photokeratitis. In simple terms, Photokeratitis is just a sunburn to the eye’s cornea, and although this problem is not permanent, it can be excruciating.
2. Cataracts: Cataracts are the most common cause of eyesight loss among adults. According to a World Health Organization publication, about 20% of cataract cases result from UV radiation. Exposure to UV when welding can cause cataracts, but the good news is that most of the cases are reversible.
3. AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration): High exposure to UV radiation at a young age is often associated with AMD in old age. UV exposure can cause photooxidative stress on the retina which in the long run leads to AMD. Although early detection can allow for treatment to slow vision loss from AMD, it is irreversible once it occurs.
4. Pterygium: Pterygium is an abnormal growth over the eye’s surface that typically occurs due to UV radiation. It is a benign growth that starts at the eye’s corner close to the nose, leading to swelling and nasty irritation. Also, Pterygium can lead to vision loss as it comes with corneal problems, but surgery can correct the symptoms.
Welding Debris Eye Damage
Besides UV radiation, debris from the welding can also lead to eye damage, which should be an even more significant concern. Unlike radiation, eye damages caused by welding debris are pretty severe, and many are permanent.
Grinding metal is a common cause of welding debris as it causes fine particles to fly all over the place. When welding, the sparks, spatter, and even the flames from the torch can hit your eyes and cause serious injuries.
While the eyes can heal fast and well with proper treatment, whether the damage is reversible or not depends on the extent. Therefore, it is always better to take enough precautions to prevent eye injuries.
How to Protect your Eyes when Welding
You should never take chances with eye safety when welding, even if most potential injuries and damages from UV radiation and debris can be reversed or treated. The wise thing to do is ensure adequate protection for the eyes, and here are some of the best ways to do it.
- ANSI Certified Safety Glasses: Safety glasses are always the last line of defense for your eyes, but they are perhaps the most important one. Besides ensuring any flying debris does not reach the eyes, these glasses use special lenses with UV-blocking capability. But, to be sure, the glasses you buy will protect your eyes; make sure they are ANSI certified.
- ANSI-Approved Welding Helmet: Welding helmets are a must for every welder as they provide full head and face protection. ANSI-approved helmets have a hard hat that surrounds the head and face and effectively keeps debris out. Additionally, they include auto-darkening capability that makes them highly effective at protecting eyes from UV radiation.
- Face Shields: While face shields provide an extra layer of protection for the eyes, you should still wear safety glasses beneath them. Also, it is vital to make sure the face shield you choose offers adequate UV protection and has a hard enough material that can keep debris out.
Note: For maximum protection for your eyes, it is crucial to keep up with OSHA safety regulations. Also, inspect and update your safety gear regularly and when working with other welders, always be aware of what they are doing. The best ideal is to stay at least 50-feet away from coworkers that are welding.
Eye injuries and damages are quite rampant among welders, and they are often a result of UV radiation and welding debris. While minor radiation and debris injuries can be treated, severe injuries cause permanent eye damage. Hence, the best move is to take adequate safety protection by always wearing protective gear and observing good practices or habits when welding.