Each year, thousands of workers suffer eye injuries. Welding frequently results in eye injuries and is involved in a variety of industries from car repair to construction. Welders work with high heat, bright ultra-violet (UV) light, dangerous projectiles, and toxic chemicals that put them at risk of eye injuries. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimate that out of 2,000 workers who suffer eye injuries requiring medical attention, about 10 percent will miss a day or more of work. More than workers in any other profession, welders are at an increased risk for eye injuries. In fact, welding and grinding make up more than half of all eye injury cases. Eye injuries can be avoided with proper care and prevention. Some injuries can heal with minimal intervention, but many are serious enough to require extensive medical care.
What Types of Industries Involve Welding?
Welding, which is the technique of using high heat to fuse metals together, is used in many industries, including production and repair of automobiles, airplanes, buildings, and innumerable manufacturing applications. The production of industrial machines, computers, and commercial products also involves welding. Any manufactured product made using metal is likely to have been produced by a welder, as well as the maintenance and repair of these products.
Work injuries are common in welding jobs. On-the-job safety hazards for welders include high temperatures that can cause burns and exposure to toxic fumes produced in the welding process. However, welders are most at risk for eye injuries from exposure to bright UV light, chemicals, or flying debris. Eye injuries reported by welders include the following:
Blunt or penetrating trauma: Without proper eye protection, small particles or large pieces of dislodged metal may fly into the welder’s eye. These shooting fragments of metal can cause lacerations, fractures, or puncture wounds.
Cornea scratches and irritations: Even microscopic metal dust can cause severe pain and damage. Small bits of metal can scratch the cornea, which is the clear outer layer that protects the eye. Attempting to rub the eye to remove the irritant can make it worse.
Chemical exposure:Welders who maintain oil rigs or other metal equipment in need of repair may be exposed to noxious chemicals. The process of welding may produce dangerous fumes that cause irritation or chemical burns to the eyes.
Flash burns: The flames used in welding produce bright UV light that can cause a specific type of eye injury, known as a flash burn, which affects the cornea of the eye. Flash burn symptoms include inflammation, pain, blurred vision, bloodshot or watery eyes, and sensitivity to light.
Indirect exposure to harm:Radiation emitted from a welding job can affect a co-worker up to 50 feet away. The UV radiation within their line of sight can damage their eyes from a distance, even if the UV light is reflected off shiny surfaces. In addition to protective eyewear for all employees, shielding curtains can be installed around the welding area to offer protection to those in the vicinity.
How can Workers Protect Against Eye Injuries While Welding?
Employers should provide workers with personal protective equipment to keep them safe from welding eye injuries. Eye protection for welders goes beyond safety goggles commonly used in construction. A pair of flimsy goggles will not withstand the extreme UV light and flying particles that threaten to cause eye damage to a welder. Use of goggles as eye protection is only effective in this setting if they are equipped with side-shields and are in compliance with the American National Standards Institute.
During arc welding, compliant goggles should be used in conjunction with a proper welding helmet. The helmet and its face shield will offer eye protection from projectiles, as well as light and heat, but optimal protection for arc welding is reached when proper safety goggles are used under a properly fitting helmet. Gas welding jobs also require shields and goggles with sufficient shade ratings.
Welding Eye Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
When a welder experiences an eye injury at work, they are entitled to collect benefits through their employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance. These benefits usually pay for any medical bills or therapies related to the injury, as well as lost wages or disability payments, whether temporary or permanent. In order to collect benefits, the injury must have occurred during the course of employment. There is no requirement to prove that the employer was negligent in any way; likewise, benefits will not be withheld due to any responsibility the employee may bear for their own injury. In accepting Workers’ Compensation benefits, the employee is foregoing any claim to sue their employer for the accident.
In cases where negligence exists, the law provides a strict set of conditions under which an injured person may sue. Those suits are usually limited to third party claims, such as those against the manufacturer of faulty equipment or other factors that caused the accident.
Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Represent Injured Welders
If you suffered an eye injury while working as a welder, you may be able to collect benefits to cover the expenses you incurred as a result of your accident. Contact the Mount Laurel Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC today to discuss your options. Contact us online or call 856-751-7676 to schedule a free consultation. Located in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey, as well as Trevose, Pennsylvania, we represent clients throughout the surrounding areas.