When welding, you will come across various obstacles and hazards. If you aren’t careful, these hazards can be very harmful to you and those around you. One hazard in particular is called arc flash. Essentially what happens is you get a sunburn from the arc itself, except the sunburn is in the back of your eye. We’ll go into more detail about what arc flash is as well as how to prevent it from occurring.
So What Causes Arc Flash?
Arc flash occurs when an intense ultraviolet radiation is generated by electric welding arcs. When this occurs, if you are looking at the arc, you can experience arc flash. This doesn’t just happen with welding equipment though. You can experience arc flash from any high intensity ultraviolet radiation. For example, you may experience arc flash when a switchboard malfunctions creating an electric arc.
As said before, arc flash is very similar to a sunburn on your skin, but it takes place in your eyeball. As such, the after effects of experiencing a flash are almost identical to that of a sunburn anywhere else. The burn kills cells, and those cells need to be replaced. This causes a rough feeling in your eyeball, which is actually dead skin cells being shed. This can irritate your eye and often cause pain until the dead skin is fully shed.
Arc flash is also the same as sunburn in that there is no immediate cure. This is a wait it out type of situation in the milder of cases. Your doctor will prescribe you eyedrops to help relieve some of the discomfort but you just have to wait for your eyes to heal. Depending on how severe your case of arc flash is, this make take several days.
Even though arc flash heals on its’ own, it is important to consult your doctor if you feel like you have been subjected to the arc. While most cases are mild and can be treated naturally, severe cases of arc flash can cause permanent damage. These cases will need to be addressed early on to reduce these long-term effects.
How to Avoid Arc Flash
If you are not equipped with proper welding gear, avoiding arc flash happens by staying away from the welder. There are times where you will need to contact the person welding. This should be done either remotely or by getting their attention so they stop welding before you approach them.
A barrier is an excellent form of protection for those not equipped with proper welding gear. Make sure to use welding curtains when performing welding projects, as they will protect other workers from harm.
While using a proper welding helmet, arc flashes are prevented. However, most arc flashes occur from people not involved in the welding process or in between striking the arc and putting the welding helmet on. This can be prevented by wearing modern safety glasses that have been tested to absorb up to 99% of the ultraviolet radiation. When selecting a welding helmet, aim for the auto-darkening ones; they will give you the best UV protection.
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