Post: Enhancing Welder Safety: The Role of Correct Safety Eyewear

Enhancing Welder Safety: The Role of Correct Safety Eyewear

Worker safety is a fundamental component of sound business strategies. Personal protective equipment encompasses a wide range of tools, barriers, signs, and various other measures. Among these safety precautions, the significance of occupational safety eyewear cannot be overstated. Numerous individuals, including doctors, glass workers, and construction workers, engage in daily tasks that jeopardize the well-being of their eyes. Welders, in particular, confront substantial hazards such as eye injuries or ailments resulting from exposure to airborne particles, fumes, or radiation.

Welding emits both visible light, which can be harmful, and invisible rays such as ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR) radiation. Although invisible radiation is not immediately noticeable to workers, it can cause damage that may only become apparent years later. Radiation exposure is a daily occurrence for people, from sources like sunlight, light bulbs, and microwaves. However, welding presents a heightened risk due to the concentrated light intensity and frequent exposure associated with the job.

THE IMPORTANCE OF ADEQUATE EYE PROTECTION IN WELDING ENVIRONMENTS

The hazards of welding extend beyond welders themselves; employees working in the surrounding area can also be exposed to potentially harmful light. While protecting workers from hazardous light exposure is crucial, welding lenses and goggles offer multiple layers of eye protection. They safeguard the eyes against risks such as heat, sparks, and debris. However, not all types of welding can be adequately protected with lenses and goggles alone.

In the case of arc welding, a full face mask may be necessary. To ensure the safety of welders, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth the requirement OSHA 1910.133(a)(5). It states that “The employer shall ensure that each affected employee uses equipment with filter lenses that have a shade number appropriate for the work being performed for protection from injurious light radiation”. This regulation aims to protect welders from potential harm caused by excessive light radiation.

Moreover, shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, and flux cored arc welding necessitate filter lenses with a minimum protective shade of 7, with the highest required minimum being 11. For carbon arc welding, a minimum shade of 14 is required, while gas welding calls for a minimum shade of 4.

OSHA advises a specific approach for selecting lenses. Initially, opt for a shade that is darker than necessary to view the weld zone. Then, gradually transition to a lighter shade that provides an adequate view while still meeting the minimum requirement. This recommendation ensures proper protection while maintaining sufficient visibility for the welding task at hand.

ENSURING EYE WELL-BEING IN WELDING: RISKS AND PREVENTION

Failure to wear proper protection during welding can lead to various conditions, including a painful eye ailment known as photokeratitis. This condition, also referred to as snow blindness and arc eye, is described by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) as akin to having a sunburned eye. It affects both the cornea, the clear front part covering the iris and pupil, and the conjunctiva, which lines the inner eyelids and covers the white portion of the eye. While the damage caused by photokeratitis is typically not permanent, it can cause significant pain, discomfort, and irritation. Treatment may involve avoiding bright lights for a certain period, which may require temporary absence from work. The severity of symptoms varies based on the duration of exposure and may include sensitivity to bright light, halos around objects, pain, blurred vision, redness, teary eyes, headaches, swelling, and a sensation of grittiness or the feeling of having sand in the eye.

Insufficient protection for workers’ eyes also poses the risk of developing cataracts, a condition in which the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. Symptoms of cataracts include cloudy vision, frequent changes in eyewear prescription, double vision, and sensitivity to light. Currently, the only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery. It is far preferable to prevent this condition, if possible, by wearing appropriate eye safety protection while engaging in welding activities.

As mentioned earlier, welders are not the only individuals potentially exposed to welding hazards. There is a risk to others who may enter the area temporarily. Some companies utilize shield curtains to safeguard non-welders from welding-specific hazards. However, depending on the circumstances, this may not always be the most optimal or feasible solution. Additionally, certain welding tasks may require consultation or review by others, necessitating close proximity. In such cases, clear polycarbonate lenses that meet the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1-2003 standard could be the preferred choice for protection. These lenses can temporarily shield workers in the vicinity from flying particles and a significant amount of UV light.

To ensure adequate protection from light, fumes, flying particles, and slag, there are numerous options available for welders and others. However, the most optimal protection is typically achieved by combining UV blocking lenses or goggles with a face shield or helmet. While the face shield itself should have shading, it is important to note that welders often lift up the face shield during work. Therefore, the spectacles worn should possess the necessary filtering capabilities to safeguard the eyes from intense UV and IR light.

In terms of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), OSHA has established comprehensive requirements. These requirements encompass various aspects such as ensuring the equipment is in a sanitary and reliable condition, as well as outlining the employer’s responsibilities when employees provide their own equipment. OSHA also provides guidance on effective communication with employees regarding potential hazards and mandates proper training for the correct use of equipment. Furthermore, if an employee typically wears prescription glasses, OSHA stipulates that the PPE either incorporates the prescription or fits appropriately over the existing glasses.

In conclusion, protecting the eyes of welders and workers in welding environments is of utmost importance to ensure their safety and well-being. By utilizing proper eye safety measures, such as UV blocking lenses or goggles along with a shaded face shield or helmet, the risks associated with intense light, fumes, flying particles, and slag can be effectively mitigated. Compliance with OSHA regulations, including the use of filter lenses with appropriate shade numbers for different welding processes, is essential to safeguard against injurious light radiation. For a comprehensive range of welding safety products, make sure to check out Phillips Safety’s collection to ensure the highest level of eye protection in welding environments.

If you still aren’t sure which welding eyewear is right for you, it’s a good idea to give us a call at 1-866-575-1307 or talk to us through our chat or e-mail us at service@phillips-safety.com

Our welding experts will be able to tell you what you need for your application.

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