During 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that approximately 357,400 welders, cutters, solderers, and brazers were employed. Welders and those who perform welding-related activities are susceptible to many occupational hazards, particularly to their ocular and respiratory health. When exposed to these hazards, welders may sustain injuries that can be temporary or permanent in nature, as well as develop illnesses with acute or chronic effects.

Welders often do not wear welding helmets and shields with their safety goggles due to discomfort, which causes ergonomic problems. Additionally, lenses often fog up during the welding process due to heat and perspiration, decreasing their field of vision. So welders often remove protective masks for simple welding tasks. Radiation may potentially be reflected into conventional welding helmets and penetrate into the helmets from the tops and the sides, causing unintentional exposure even when preventive measures are taken.

The persistence of injuries sustained by the non-use or use of unsuitable equipment call for a different approach. Machine vision and automation provide a proactive solution to addressing welding health risks. Welders are displaced from the hazardous environment, eliminating even the slightest chance of accidents waiting to happen. Plus, these tools allow for the analysis of welding processes in real time, increasing overall productivity. Making smart choices in creating a healthy and safe environment is crucial as workplace hazards undoubtedly make a significant dip to your bottom line.

Major Hazards

The severity of these adverse effects are influenced by factors including, but not limited to:

  • Work conditions and practices
  • Exposure period
  • Type of welding
  • Inappropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Lifestyle factors

Welding eye injuries

Welding arcs emit radiation over a wide spectrum of wavelengths which includes ultraviolet (UV) radiation, visible light, and infrared (IR) radiation. These electromagnetic waves are absorbed into the cornea, lens, and/or retina of the eye which causes phototoxic trauma through damage to critical ocular membrane and structures. In acute cases, it results in what is commonly referred to as “arc eye.”

Symptoms of arc eye often appear hours after exposure, and include pain (which varies from a mild pressure to sharp pains), reddening and watering of the eyes, extreme sensitivity to light, along with a “sand in eye” sensation. With special eye drops, symptoms often disappear within a day or so.

In more chronic cases, welders experience what is known as the “blue light hazard,” leaving permanent scars on the retina which can potentially result in blindness. Other welders may develop phototoxic maculopathy that is accompanied with metamorphopsia and relative central scotoma, significantly diminishing their visual field.

Comparing 40 welders and 40 age-matched non-welder controls in a cross-sectional study, fundus photographs revealed the presence of dark-yellow, round macular lesions in 19 welders. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) showed an abnormality in the inner segment/outer segment (IS/OS) layer and the inner portion retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) layer in the eyes of 30 welders. It was noted that welders in the study had been wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and strictly following safety protocol during welding processes.

The occurrence of eye-related traumas tops all other occupational injuries in the American workplace. It is estimated that over 2,000 individuals incur eye injuries at work each day and that 200 of them will have to miss one or more workdays. Eye injuries account for 25 percent of all compensation claims for welders. The average cost of a welding related eye injury is $157, slightly higher than the cost of construction related eye injuries.

Source: Enceladus http://enceladusimaging.com/welding-safety-2/