Welding can cause damage to your eyesight, and as a professional welder, you're more prone to this risk than anyone else.
We often tend to focus more on skill mastery. Learning how to inspect and discern good or bad welds, how to perform different welding processes, and becoming proficient at welding are just some of the things we look at. It makes sense to exert effort in these things if you're gunning for a professional welding career, but what about your vision?
Think about it. The majority of your welding activities involve the use of your eyes. Not just for seeing, but for seeing clearly. We focus so much on the mission for advancement that we forget to pay attention to what's essential. Our vision. Our eyesight.
It's time to put the mission back into the vision. Learn the different eye hazards that lead to poor eyesight or visual impairments, and how to fix them and use existing technology to enhance and protect them.
Seeing Clearly: The Welder's Need for Clear Vision
A welding professional is involved in high-precision work. Part of turning in a high-quality weld is attention to detail. That's why eyes play a huge part in a welder's career.
It takes years to develop the discernment of details such as weld patterns, the slag's conditions, and the weld's size. Having clear vision will make spotting these things easier, so what happens if a welder's vision blurs?
Just like any other profession that benefits from clear vision, welders also face challenges due to poor eyesight. Here's how it will affect your career.
Welders who have visual impairments are often singled out as incapable in certain aspects, such as doing meticulous and high-quality welds. As a result, they are alienated by their colleagues and seen as disadvantaged.
If a welder wants to be a Certified Welding Inspector, there are visual acuity requirements to pass. A professional welder who has poor eyesight or visual impairment (or loss) may face challenges to get certified or worse, may not get it at all. This limits a welder's opportunities to excel in their chosen career as a welder.
As a result of this visual impairment, a professional may lose confidence in the welding line of work. As a result, they may lose confidence and won't make any effort to network with clients or fellow welders. They may also limit themselves from practicing welding as a profession because of low self-esteem caused by the stigma towards people with poor eyesight.
Eye damage from welding and how to take care of it
Eye damage from welding is a threat to a professional welder's advancement. It can ultimately lead to poor eyesight or even the loss of it. Thankfully, there are ways to fix short and long-term eye damages and save yourself and your career from being ruined.
Known medically as Photokeratitis, Welder's Flash is caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation coming from directed and reflected light of the welding arc. That's why this eye injury is commonly called Arc Eye.
When your eye's cornea absorbs a significant amount of UV for long periods, it gets damaged. As a result, you will feel light to intense pain in your eyes, your vision will blur, and your eyes will become sensitive to light.
Welder's Flash is repairable if the damage is infrequent and light, but professional welders are at risk for more permanent damage such as low or blurred vision.
- Eyedrops: Your eyes can feel dry and irritable when you're suffering from Welder's Flash. Letting it go on like that will make it worse. Treat it with eye drops such as artificial tears as soon as possible to keep your eyes moisturized and bring them back to health. It's better if your eyedrops can be refrigerated, as it'll bring a refreshing feeling to your eyes.
- Get some shuteye: You'll have to rest your eyes from light exposure because they will be sensitive to light. Get good sleep right away and give your eyes time to heal themselves.
- Put something cold on it: Put a cold slice of cucumber or cold tea bags on your eyes while you rest. Your eyes will have an easier time and recover better when cooled.
- Avoid welding at night or in areas with low light. The contrast of the low light surroundings and the arc makes the light produced more intense for your vision.
- Weld alone. Avoid welding with other welders. The reflective light coming from their welding arcs contributes to UV exposure. Not only you but your buddies will up the UV absorbed by your cornea, and you'll feel the strain in just a couple of hours of continuous welding. If it can't be helped, try to at least keep a safe distance from them.
- Use an auto-darkening welding helmet with magnifying lenses. It protects your eyes from UV and IR; it also regulates light exposure, and helps you see better from a distance so you don't have to lean in and risk intense exposure.
Tiny pieces of metal caused by grinding metal and sparks coming from the arc weld are an eye hazard. These can shoot up unexpectedly towards your eye and irritate it. Worse, these can damage it.
When this happens, there will be immediate pain and irritation in the affected eye. If it is severe, your eye may become bloodshot and teary. You won't be able to open it fully.
This type of eye hazard can range from mild to severe, and the damage can be either temporary or permanent (i.e., blindness).
- Rinse eyes with clean, running water: The running water will flush out any debris that's stuck on your eye or eyelids, as well as help your eyes get rid of any elements that could cause infection.
- Eyedrops for red-eyes: If you're suffering from irritation in the eyes, it's best to keep anti-redness eyedrops in your first aid kit. Apply a few drops in your eyes to treat bloodshot and irritated eyes.
- Rest your eyes: Don't go back to welding immediately. Give your eyes time to heal by closing them. If the pain stops and the redness is gone, and if you're able to open your eyes fully, then that's the time you can go back to what you're working on.
- Be sure to seek immediate medical help if you can't open your eyes to rinse or put eyedrops on them.
- Clean out your work table prior to and after working on metals. This is to remove all the leftover debris before you get to work and also to prevent any accumulation of leftover debris after you've finished working.
- Get a welding helmet with the flip-up lens. If you're in the habit of not wearing any goggles or helmets because it impedes your vision, consider getting a flip-up lens. That way, you can put it down whenever you're grinding or welding metal. This will significantly improve your eye protection and give you an option to see things in real color after you're done welding.
The eye's constant exposure to UV can increase the risk of macular degeneration. Retinal damage may lead to poor eyesight and, over time, may even cause vision loss. This may not be noticeable in its early stages and may show up later in life.
Pinguecula and Pterygium
These two eye disorders are the most common amongst welders. The Pinguecula is a yellowish stain-like pattern on the eye's sclera—the white part of the eye. On the other hand, Pterygium is excess tissue growth from the conjunctiva that could grow to cover half the surface of the sclera.
You can prevent these long-term eye damage from happening if you protect your eyes from UV exposure. Get a custom welding helmet that shields you from harmful UV rays.
Technological Interventions: Using A High-Quality Welding Helmet
Living in the modern time has its perks. Technological advancement in the welding realm has helped welders' “cheat” fate by wearing enhancements that improve safety and visual acuity.
If you're one of many welders suffering the long-term effects of a welding career, such as poor eyesight, there's a way for you to bridge this gap. Here's what we recommend as the best welding helmet to help you see clearly while also preventing further damage to your eyes.
Recommendation: Miller Digital Elite Welding Helmet With ClearLight Lens
The Miller Digital Elite is one the best we've seen on the market. Its ClearLight Lens is designed by welders to address the issue of contrast and clarity when welding. This feature helps you discern the foreground and the background and assess depth further, allowing you to weld with precision.
The X-mode removes the interference of sunlight that shines directly on your work, letting you see clearly in a balanced light condition. The Miller Digital Elite also senses the environment and optimally adjusts the helmet's setting to blend in with the uncontrollable conditions outside your workplace. Variable shades are available for you to play around with, and the arc sensors let the helmet respond quickly to the intensity of the light of the arc.
This helmet is UV and IR-protected. The best part is it gives you the option to attach a 0.75 magnifying lens on your helmet so you can see things up close while keeping yourself distanced from the hazardous area by letting the welding helmet with magnifying lenses do the work.
The Miller Digital Elite is your all-purpose protective helmet that serves as your partner, carrying you to the heights of your welding career despite poor eyesight or visual impairment.