Welding arc flash is a burn of the outer layers of the eyeball caused by the intense ultra-violet radiation generated by welding. A common cause of arc flashes in the industrial industry is when someone looks directly at the welding area without wearing protective eye gear. Directly looking at the UV radiation generated by the electric welding arcs causes a painful inflammation of the cornea. This is commonly referred to as ‘welder’s eye’ or ‘arc eye.’
Basically, welding arc flash is like sunburn on your eyes. Like sunburn, cells are killed and need to be replaced. Someone with this type of eye injury will experience a “gritty” feeling in their injured eye. This is due to the dead cells being shed from the surface of the eye.
The best way to avoid exposure to arc flash is by placing a barrier between humans and the welding area.
For non-welders, a welding curtain protects them from the welding area. A welding curtain is a screen that encloses the welding operation and filters welding light radiation and particles. This is only suitable protection for someone who is outside of the welding area.
For someone directly in the welding area, eye protection is mandatory. The best eye protection is a welder’s helmet. A welder’s helmet covers a welder’s face to protect from sparks and flying materials. It has a special darkened eye shield to prevent the cornea from being damaged by ultraviolet light. Every welding helmet includes a lens shade through which the welder looks. The lens shade is heavily darkened and is a polarized lens that only lets in a certain amount of light.
Although welding can be interesting to watch, it is important to wear protective eye gear before observing a welder at work in order to avoid eye injury.