Over 500,000 people in America today work in one of the most dangerous occupations in one of the most dangerous industries: welding. Welders often face hazards like toxic exposure, electrical shock, and severe burns in addition to the many hazards all construction workers face. The most recent data on fatal welding accidents show that 1 in 250 welders will die from a welding-related injury at some point in their careers.
However, of all the injury risks welders face, we often get asked about one: "what's the number one accident in a welding shop?" Today's blog is about the biggest long-term injury welders face and what they can do to prevent a welding accident.
The Number One Accident in a Welding Shop
The number one accident that happens to welders is suffering flash burn—also known as welder's flash or arc eye. What happens in a flash burn injury is the UV radiation and infrared light radiation from a welding arc will burn the retina. UV damage will essentially give the eye a sunburn, and it takes a few hours to notice. Infrared damage, however, immediately feels like a scorching burn. Infrared radiation eventually causes cataracts.
In either case, radiation exposure will cost you time and money, both in medical care and lost time. Severe injuries could lead to permanent vision loss.
Other Common Welding Injuries
A little-known but just as catastrophic injury common to welders is hearing loss. Flying debris can strike the ear canal, damaging its fragile structures. Welders are also subjected to about 85 decibels of noise non-stop during the workday—roughly the same amount of sound as an idling bulldozer. Long periods of sustained high-decibel exposure can seriously damage the eardrums and lead to partial or total hearing loss later in life.
Managers should provide welders with earplugs or earmuffs and put up sound barriers to preserve their hearing. Welders should also have enough breaks to allow them relief from sustained periods of loud noise. For your sake, consider getting regular hearing tests—there are few things more dangerous on a construction site than to lose your hearing, a key part of your situational awareness.
How to Prevent a Welding Injury
As a rule, welders should leave their jewelry in their locker or at home. Protective boots, gloves, and overalls can decrease the likelihood of suffering electric shock. Additionally, if two welders are working on the same piece at the same time, they should be outside of each other's reach—managers should ensure they're not able to accidentally make contact with each other. Arc welders should also make it a habit to check their external connections to ensure cleanliness and tightness.
Welders can also avoid flash burn injury through specific equipment that should be provided by their supervisors. This equipment of course includes a welding hood and goggles, but it also includes a lens shade with appropriate filter strength, welding blinds, and helper glasses to help magnify the work surface without forcing welders to put their heads at an unsafe distance to the arc.
If lack of equipment or training led to your welding accident, speak with Houston welding injury lawyers at Arnold & Itkin LLP today. We've won billions for workers and their families, helping them get back on their feet after an accident. Learn your options and how we can help in a free consultation.