How to Avoid and Treat Weld Burns

The arc welding process emits UV rays and bright flashes that can burn your exposed skin in a matter of minutes and cause significant discomfort and damage to your eyes, let alone the sparks that could cause long term damage. During preheating and welding metal is heated to high temperatures and the welding arc emits extremely concentrated rays that can cause sun burns very quickly. 

It's very easy to get burned during the welding process, but thankfully, these burns are also extremely easy to prevent if you take proper precautions. If you are burned or flashed, we'll provide some tips on treatment, though all treatment advice should be cleared with your own doctor who is able to inspect your injuries. 

Burns and Welding Helmets

Depending on the type of welding you're doing, you will need the right lens for your visor or helmet. Mig welding requires a #10 lens while arc welding generally calls for a #12 filter. TIG welding is usually done with a #11 filter lens. Make sure you have the right visor for the job. The ultra violet light generated from welding is extremely bright, and it can cause sever damage to your eyes if you don't have eye protection. Retinal flash burns are common for those who do not wear the right kind of visor. 

Goggles are sometimes used for cutting applications, but it's often better to wear something that provides complete protection to your face and hair such as a shield or helmet with grinding and cutting screen options. There are some "hair on fire" stories out there! There also are stories of welders who thought they could cheat by closing their eyes while making a few quick welds. The problem is, they then burned their eye lids. 

The right helmet will have a viewing area that provides UV protection and covers your entire face. The best protection from flash will be a helmet that provides auto-darkening through a series of 2-4 sensors and a series of shade settings so that you have excellent visibility and protection whenever a flash occurs. If you're using a particular shade while you're working and a flash occurs, an auto-darkening helmet will adapt to the brightness of the flash and protect your eyes so you can keep working comfortably.

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Burns and Welding Gloves

If you search online for pictures of TIG welders, you'll often find welders feeding in the wire with one bare hand, which is never a good idea when you're working with the UV rays and sparks emitted while arc welding. MIG and stick welding produce sparks and spatter that can burn your hands, and if you're feeding TIG wire, the UV rays from the arc can still burn your exposed skin. Ever try feeding a wire with sunburned fingers? 

There are different material thicknesses and types of leather depending on which welding glove you choose. The best glove will protect your hand from the heat, spatter, and sparks emitted while welding. Some welders add extra pieces of flame-resistant material to the parts of their hands that are closest to the welding arc.

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Burns and Welding Clothing

The most important rule for welding clothing is to avoid synthetic fabrics, since any sparks that land in synthetic clothing will catch fire and burn you quickly. 100% cotton clothing is your best option for welding since the sparks will just smolder a little in cotton. Heavy duty boots that are static electricity resistant will also keep your feet safe. If you're working with heavy metal workpieces, then a steel toe boot will be your best option.

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Burns and Welding Bibs, Jackets, and Aprons

If you weld in a colder climate, a leather work jacket is a great option for welders who want to protect themselves from sparks. If you're working in a warmer climate there are many different kinds of flame resistant jackets available. Depending on the process you're using, you may not need a heavy duty apron or jacket.

Also, if you're welding at a work station, you can attach a bib to your helmet and wear welding sleeves to protect your arms. You can also wear an apron to protect yourself with something that is a bit more light-weight if you're welding in a warmer climate or workshop. Aprons focus the protective material where it matters most.

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Burns and Welding Materials

Do not let the hot electrode come in contact with bare skin. It is extremely hot and can scorch your skin in an instant. Also make sure to remove all hot metal pieces from the work station after you are done welding a particular piece. If you need to cool off your metal workpiece, keep your gloves on until you're done handling it.

Burns and Welding Workstations

An innocent woven rug off to the side or a pile of sawdust nearby your welder can catch sparks, smolder, and catch fire after you're done welding. There are many commonesense practices that can protect you from burns or worse while welding, such as always making sure your work area is clear of flammable liquids or gases that could ignite while you work. 

How to Treat Welding Burns

Once you're burned, there is nothing to do other than try to make yourself more comfortable. Prevention is the best strategy when it comes to treating welding burns. However, if you do get burned, you need to assess how severe it is. If you have any open wounds, be sure to treat them with disinfectant. More serious burns should be checked out by a doctor who may also be able to give you something to ease the pain.

In most cases, you'll need to just apply something to cool the intense sunburn that arc welding causes to exposed skin. Some use aloe vera, but it's generally agreed that a topical steroid will bring a lot more relief. It will be well worth going to a doctor just to get the right treatment for your burns. You may also contact your local pharmacy to find out if there are any over the counter remedies such as hydrocortinsone that may provide some relief to your burns.

How to Treat Welder's Flash

The most important thing you can do for any eye injury that results from welding is to consult an eye doctor. There are plenty of old tricks and opinions about how to cut corners with an eye injury, but the problem is you need a first hand opinion on the best treatment for your eyes. Most eye doctors will give you eye drops and make sure your eye isn't infected, but other than that, you will most likely need to just keep your eyes shut and let them heal. If you are flashed, keep your eyes closed and avoid rubbing them in order to prevent further injury. 

Some welders have found that strips of wet gauze on top of their closed eyes can be soothing after being flashed. In addition, it's often recommended to sleep with your eyes covered just to ensure your eyes aren't exposed to any light. In addition, wear sunglasses when you go outside until you're absolutely sure that your eye is fully recovered. 

Learn More About Welding Burns and Welding Safety

Written exclusively for BakersGas.com

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How to Avoid and Treat Weld Burns

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