In many industries, cutters, brazers, solders, and welders are used to weld together metal parts. According to figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010, there were 337,300 welders working in the U.S. Of them, 61% worked in the manufacturing industry, while 11% worked in the construction industry.
There are other types of workers as well who work with welding tools in their occupation, such as iron workers and pipe fitters. Due to prolonged exposure to welding hazards, these workers are at a high risk of getting injured at the workplace. Every year, thousands of such workers suffer eye injuries.
Workers in industries that involve welding are exposed to numerous hazards. Laser, arc, and torch welding produce radiation that can be harmful to the eyes and can cause skin burns. Welding also produces hot sparks and shards of metal, which can be extremely dangerous.
Welders are exposed to a high risk of eye injuries caused by ultraviolet radiation. They are also exposed to bright visible light. This exposure can cause damage to the eye surface, membrane, or retina and these injuries can lead to long-term complications such as cataracts or even blindness. Further, due to the UV radiation that some types of welding emit, a worker can suffer skin burns.
This can happen either from direct exposure to radiation or from radiation reflected off the surface. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to skin cancer. Also, consider that welding produces fumes that contain solid particles, which can accumulate in the lungs. Depending on the metals used for welding, the composition of the particles varies. With long-term exposure, these fumes can cause a variety of health problems, such as kidney damage, bone and joint disorders, lung problems, nervous system disorders, and even cancer.
Due to the dangerous elements involved in welding, it is essential to wear protective gear and ensure proper ventilation of the workplace in order to stay safe. There are strict OSHA guidelines required of employers in order to minimize any welding injuries to their employees. Rules insist Protective eye wear: Workers should wear helmets, shields, and goggles in order to protect their eyes.
Welding is one of the most hazardous occupations in construction. Traditionally, welders had to fear workplace injury from burns, electricity, and “welder’s flash” (blinding and diminished vision, see below). Recent studies have shown that toxic chemicals released from welding rods put welders at an additional workplace risk for less immediate but no less serious conditions of lung, brain, and nerve damage, such as manganism (Welders’ Parkinson’s disease).
Electrical shock is possible whenever electricity is present. Commonly confused by apprentice rod welders, the “ground connection” does not mean a “work lead” (the cable coming from the power supply connecting to what is to be welded). The work lead is not a grounding cable at all. A special ground lead from the power supply is necessary to be grounded safely. Simpler protections such as keeping your gloves dry and wearing your PPE (personal protective equipment) can prevent most electrical welding injuries.
Welder’s Flash is one of the welding injuries that occur from the intense ultraviolet light, produced from the arc ray. Skin exposed during welding can develop sunburns from this radiation. Welders not given proper eye protection, or not keeping a safe distance from the arc, can develop a painful condition known as welder’s flash. These welding injuries are also knows as Arc Eye, or Flash Burns.
Symptoms of welder’s flash include tearing eyes, light sensitivity, and even intense burning from eyes that feel constantly dry. Welder’s flash symptoms typically occur a few hours after exposure and disappear within a day-and-a-half. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotic eye drops/ointments to prevent eye infection and pain killers. Sometimes an eye patch is required. Although rare, arc radiation can penetrate the retina and cause permanent retinal damage, including cataracts, diminished vision, and higher sensitivity to light. For many, the worst part of welding injuries, are the number of days missed, especially if these are unpaid.
Because of smoke and glare, welders sometimes position their heads too close to the arc and increase the risk for welder’s flash. Wearing cheaters (safety reading glasses) under the hood lets the welder get a better look at the weld and gauge distance. Auto-darkening helmets both protect the welder’s eyes and also prevent weld defects as the welder can better see to position the gun or electrode while the helmet is down.
Though manganism resembles Parkinson’s disease, the causes of manganism are unique to manganese poisoning. Research published in the journal Experimental Neurology and elsewhere has found that exposure to manganese reduces the brain’s dopamine levels, creating damage not found in Parkinson’s disease. Of all the welding injuries discussed, this is the most insidious.
For more information and enhance your company’s fall protection program this spring and summer contact HURT-511 and our personal injury lawyers help injured workers recover the benefits to which they are entitled by law. For a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, call us toll-free at 800-4878-511 or complete our online form. Our firm handles accident and injury claims throughout all five boroughs of New York.
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