While welding techniques have gradually improved over the years, there are still many risks that come with the job. This includes repeated contact with harmful dust, smoke and fumes as well as exposure to light and heat radiation. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) states that “each day about 2000 U.S. workers have a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. About one third of the injuries are treated in hospital emergency departments.”
There are many severe eye-related injuries that a worker can sustain, including small metallic particles that can strike the eye, leading to painful cuts and abrasions; the CDC reports that “metal slivers, wood chips, dust, and cement chips… nails, staples, or slivers of wood or metal [that] penetrate the eyeball and result in permanent loss of vision. Large objects may also strike the eye/face [and] chemical burns to one or both eyes from splashes of industrial chemicals or cleaning products are common.” Because of such serious wounds, it is essential for a welder to remain as safe as possible while doing their job, regardless of their levels of expertise and competence.
One of the most frequent and all-pervading injuries that a welder may experience given improper eye protection is known as photokeratitis or “welding arc flash.” This is a non-permanent condition, although it may affect your vision for some time given that it damages the tissue around the eye (although thankfully not the retina itself). In this case, the cells on the outer layer of your cornea are inadvertently burned by UV rays. This is similar to sunburn on the skin, but instead on the surface of your eye. Although the affected area will slowly heal over time, UV eye burns may take a great deal of time to recover from and, as you can imagine, they can be wholly excruciating to experience. You can read more about photokeratitis and its effects on the body here.
Welding eye injuries are extremely common and, regardless of whether you are doing a quick 30-second job or a 30-minute task, eye protection is a must. Utilizing a helmet as well as safety glasses or protective goggles is vital to effectively shield your vision. The U.S. Department of Labor OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) states that “goggles or other suitable eye protection shall be used during all gas welding or oxygen cutting operations… All operators and attendants of resistance welding or resistance brazing equipment shall use transparent face shields or goggles, depending on the particular job, to protect their faces or eyes.” PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is also crucial.
PPE clothing should provide adequate coverage in case of sparks, fumes or smoke, as well as reducing the possibility of skin burns. In most cases, clothing manufactured from heavy cotton or a wool blend will better endure the outside elements of your workplace. Flame-resistant gloves and a flame-resistant apron are also essential protective attire. For more details on what you should wear when welding, ANSI (American National Standards Institute) offers some useful advice.
Although there have been notable advances in the manufacture of protective gear over the years, eye injuries are still widespread. This may be due to a low perception of the risk involved in the assignment itself, or perhaps because welders feel discomfort while wearing them. However, the discomfort caused by a serious eye injury will easily outweigh the pain caused from wearing a helmet and goggles for a small period of time. The Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety once estimated that a quarter of welding injuries are eye-related, so eye protection should always be enforced. In essence, it is important that workers are educated about the dangers they will encounter during their day-to-day routine, as well as implementing a “No Excuses” eye protection plan whenever someone is welding. Magnatech, LLC has been manufacturing systems for orbital tube and pipe welding applications for more than 40 years. We are proud to supply products that put an emphasis on reliability and user-friendliness.
If you would like more information on what we can do for you, please visit us online at Magnatech or call 860-653-2573 today.
Guest Post from Jaclyn Passaro