Welding may be mesmerizing to someone passing by… due to the bright light and the sound of crackling metal. But without the right safety equipment, you could succumb to severe health issues. This is why EPIC Systems modular fabrication team takes safety around welders so seriously.
Welding arcs give off radiation over a broad range of wavelengths. This includes Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, visible light, and Infrared radiation.
UV-radiation is divided into three ranges – UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. UV-C and almost all UV-B are absorbed in the cornea of the eye. UV-A passes through the cornea and is absorbed in the lens of the eye. Some UV radiation, visible light, and IR radiation can reach the retina.
Certain types of UV radiation can produce an injury to the surface of the eye called “arc eye,” “welders’ eye” or “arc flash.” These names are common names for “conjunctivitis” – an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the front of the eye. The symptoms include:
- pain – ranging from a mild feeling of pressure in the eyes to intense pain in severe instances
- tearing and reddening of the eye and membranes around the eye
- a sensation of “sand in the eye” or abnormal sensitivity to light
- inability to look at light sources (photophobia)
The amount of time required to cause these effects depends on several factors such as the intensity of the radiation, the distance from the welding arc, the angle at which the radiation enters the eye, and type of eye protection that the welder or bystander is using. However, exposure to just a few seconds of intense UV light can cause arc eye. These symptoms may not be felt until several hours after exposure.
Long-term exposure to UV light can produce cataracts. Visible light from welding processes is very bright and can overwhelm the ability of the iris of the eye to close sufficiently and rapidly enough to limit the brightness of the light reaching the retina. The result is that the light is temporarily blinding and fatiguing to the eye. A serious concern is the “blue light hazard” which is the temporary or permanent scarring of the retina due to its sensitivity to blue light, around 440 nm wavelength.
EPIC takes many precautions to avoid anyone ever having to deal with the harmful effects of looking directly into an ark. For starters, each one of our Welders has a mask they provide and wear religiously. Also, our shop is lined with red tarps so innocent passersby do not have to wear a mask to be protected from the bright light that is emitted while welding. EPIC’s number one priority is safety when it comes to our modular fabrication shop.