Did you know that eye injuries account for one-quarter of all welding injuries? It is one of the most common injuries for welders in the workplace. This directly affects workers producing industrial and commercial machinery, computer equipment, and fabricated metal products. Injuries can be preventable with a simple safety measure: proper eye protection.
Helmets alone don’t offer enough protection, making safety glasses essential in the workplace. It is recommended to wear safety goggles under helmets when welding, oxygen fuel cutting, or brazing. Goggles offer proper protection from dust, impact, and radiation hazards.
Oxygen fuel cutting, gas welding and brazing exposes workers to radiant energy, or optical radiation. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV), infrared (IR) radiation, and intense blue light can cause serious damage to the skin and eyes without a worker realizing it.
Prolonged exposure to infrared radiation can cause photokeratitis, often referred to as welder’s flash. This radiation penetrates through the cornea to the retina, potentially causing retinal damage. This painful experience may lead to cataracts, diminished visual acuity, and higher sensitivity to light and glare. Damage from ultraviolet light can occur quickly and is often characterized by eye swelling, tearing, and severe pain.
Safety First: Selecting the Right Eye Protection
These damages can be preventable with the proper eye protection. It is always recommended to choose the darkest shade that allows you to still complete the task, when picking the proper eye protection. There is less risk of potential harm when going down shades, if the filter lens does not allow proper visibility, in order to prevent serious damage.
It is recommended to select safety goggles or a mask with a tempered shaded lens to protect your eyes from injury and provide good visibility for work. Shields or goggles with a shade rating of 3-8 should adequate for most welding applications. You should always wear safety glasses under a shield when arc welding.
If you’re looking to buy new safety glasses, the following table from Harris Products Group is a good reference for selecting the proper shade of lens for oxygen fuel applications.
It is important to protect bystanders in the work environment. You should always set up welding curtains to protect anyone walking by a work area without the proper safety eye wear. This will prevent eye damage, burns, or debris from harming those in the surrounding environment.