Preventing Eye Injuries When Welding

A flash burn is a painful inflammation of the cornea, which is the clear tissue that covers the front of the eye. A flash burn occurs when you are exposed to bright ultraviolet (UV) light.  It can happen in all types of UV light but is a common problem among welders, or those exposed to welding activities. That is why it is sometimes called welder’s flash or arc eye.

Preventing Eye Injuries When WeldingPrevention of flash burns is best. It is critical to wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) during welding activities. Protect the cornea from UV light by wearing a welding shield. It is also good practice to wear dark safety glasses under your welding shield to minimize exposure. To prevent flash burn to bystanders, erect a welding shield and use appropriate signage.

The symptoms of flash burn include: pain that may be mild to severe, bloodshot eyes, light sensitivity, watery eyes, blurred vision and the feeling of having something in your eye. If you think that you have been exposed and may have a flash burn related injury, you need to take the proper steps to prevent any further damage. First, notify your Foreman and Superintendent. They will arrange for proper treatment and care. It may take three to twelve hours to start noticing symptoms; therefore, you may not be at work when you first feel the discomfort. If you are not at work (after shift or over the weekend), you should call your Foreman or Superintendent immediately.

Luckily the cornea repairs itself rapidly and without leaving any scars. In most cases, healing takes place in one to two days; if you follow all instructions and protect your eyes from further damage.

Proper PPE and training is the key to prevention of flash burn injuries.

What Causes Flash Burn?

  • Welding Arc
  • Sunlamp in tanning salon
  • Reflection of sunlight off water or snow.
  • Direct Sunlight
  • Lightning that strikes close to you.

What is the damage?

  • The cornea is the part of the eye that is damaged when the proper eye protection is not used.
  • Flash Burn is like having sunburn on your eyes.
  • Corneal damage from flash burn can be very painful.
  • The cornea can repair itself in one to two days without leaving any scaring.
  • Permanent damage may include loss of vision.

First Aid for Flash Burn!

  • It can take 3 to 12 hours after exposure to begin noticing the symptoms.
  • Notify your Foreman or Superintendent immediately.
  • Remove contact lenses (if you wear them) until the eyes have healed.
  • If both eyes are red and painful do not swab or rub, use the eyewash station gently, but thoroughly. Tilt your head back and drop the liquid in behind your lower eyelid.
  • Use artificial tears or lubricants to help with discomfort.
  • Do not rub your eyes.
  • Wear tinted safety glasses if your eyes are sensitive to light.
  • Burned tissue is susceptible to infection so monitor until pain free.


  • Wear protective glasses to protect the cornea from exposure to ultraviolet light and a welder’s hood when welding.
  • Make sure that your welding shield has the correct shade of filter.
  • Use shields around your work areas to protect others from arc flashes.

Questions to Generate Discussion

  • How can directly viewing a welding arc injure your eyes? Does squinting help?
  • Wearing a welding helmet protects the welder. How is your shop protecting others from inadvertently viewing a welding arc?