Welding is a dangerous profession that carries the risk of burns and other injuries. Knowing how to treat a welding burn should you sustain one is an important part of being a safe welder.
In this article, we will discuss the types of welding burns, proper steps to take when treating a welding burn, from immediate first aid treatment to long-term care.
Don’t be the person who think that the little bit of weld, nothing happens. This is a misconception and is very harmful for the skin.
That’s why I always recommend welding with long clothes. For sure, use a proper FR clothing. One tip: Do not take clothing that reflects.
UV radiation from welding is more dangerous than you think and definitely damages the skin and can later lead to skin cancer.
Types of welding burns
There are several types of welding burns that can occur during the welding process:
These occur when the skin comes into direct contact with a hot welding torch, molten metal or other hot surfaces. They can cause significant tissue damage and can result in blisters, swelling, and pain.
These occur when the eyes are exposed to the intense light produced during the welding process. They can cause temporary vision loss, eye irritation, and pain.
These occur when a welder accidentally touches an electrified surface or part of the welding equipment. They can cause severe tissue damage and can even be fatal.
These occur when the skin is exposed to radiation from the welding process. They can cause skin damage and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Why Welding can be Dangerous?
In arc welding processes (e.g., Stick, TIG, MIG, FCAW, etc.), the air between the electrode and the workpiece, which is actually a poor electrical conductor, is ionized (electrically conductive) by applying an electrical voltage.
This ionization results in Plasma generation between electrode & base metal. This plasma is several thousand degrees hot and emits radiation with different wavelengths. In addition to visible light, infrared radiation (IR radiation) and ultraviolet radiation (UV radiation) are generated.
The visible light leads to glare and is located in the electromagnetic spectrum in the wavelength range from 400 nm to 750 nm.
The infrared radiation is perceived as thermal radiation and is located in the electromagnetic spectrum in the wavelength range from 750 nm to 1000 nm.
The human skin has thermoreceptors that sense the heat and transmit corresponding nerve signals to the brain.
Exposure to cold causes a narrowing of blood vessels in the human body, heat exposure causes dilation. Prolonged exposure to IR radiation on the skin can cause burns. In addition to the skin, the eye can also be damaged by IR radiation.
Short-wave IR radiation can lead to clouding of the eye lens (fire star) when exposed to long-lasting exposure, long-wave IR radiation to burn the cornea.
For ultraviolet radiation, the human body has no sensory organ. The human body needs small amounts of UV radiation to form vitamin D. However, doses that are too high are harmful to humans.
UV radiation causes, among other things, the flashing of the eyes by causing inflammation of the outer eye (conjunctivitis).
Other effects of UV radiation are only felt by humans when it is too late. Short-term high doses of UV radiation lead to sunburn, during welding, for example, the so-called “welding tie” (the burning of the uncovered area between the shirt and face shield).
Long-term doses that are too high can lead to skin cancer and cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye).
UV radiation is in the wavelength range from 100 nm to 380 nm in the electromagnetic spectrum. It is divided into three categories:
- UV-A (320 nm – 380 nm), penetrates deep into the skin, causes tanning and aging.
- UV-B (280 nm – 320 nm), penetrates into upper layers of the skin, causes sunburn, has the highest carcinogenic effect.
- UV-C (100 nm – 280 nm), causes sunburn and skin tumors.
The welding arc contains all components of UV radiation. The radiation intensity depends on the welding process, the current and the reflection in the welding area.
How to treat welding burns?
If you’ve burned yourself, there’s nothing you can do but try to make yourself more comfortable. Prevention is the best strategy when it comes to treating welding burns.
However, if you have burned yourself, you need to determine how severe the burn is. If you have open wounds, you should treat them with a disinfectant. More severe burns should be examined by a doctor, who may also be able to give you something to relieve the pain.
Here are some general steps to follow:
Remove the source of the heat
If the burn is caused by a hot welding torch or a hot surface, move away from the heat source to prevent further damage.
Cool the burn
Use cool running water or a cold compress to cool the affected area for at least 10 minutes. This will help to reduce pain and swelling.
Clean the burn
Gently clean the affected area with mild soap and water. Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbing the burn, as this can cause further damage.
Apply a sterile dressing
Cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick dressing to protect the area and prevent infection.
Take pain medication
Over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
Seek medical attention
If the burn is severe or covers a large area, seek medical attention immediately. You may need treatment such as prescription medication, wound care, or skin grafting.
In most cases, you simply need to apply something to cool the intense heat burn caused by arc welding on exposed skin. Some use aloe vera, but it is generally accepted that a topical steroid brings much more relief.
It will be worth seeing a doctor to get the right treatment for your burns. You can also contact your local pharmacy to find out if there are over-the-counter remedies like hydrocortisone that can provide some relief from your burns.
Welding flash burn skin home treatment
Welding flash burn is a type of burn that occurs when the eyes are exposed to the intense light produced during the welding process.
While it is always best to seek medical attention if you experience flash burn, there are some home treatments that can help to alleviate the symptoms. Here are some steps you can take:
Rest the eyes
If you have welding flash burn, it is important to rest your eyes and avoid any activities that may strain them, such as reading or using a computer.
Use cold compresses
Applying a cold compress, such as a washcloth soaked in cool water or a bag of frozen peas, can help to reduce pain and swelling.
Use artificial tears
Using over-the-counter artificial tears can help to soothe the eyes and alleviate dryness and irritation.
Avoid bright lights
Avoid bright lights, such as sunlight or harsh indoor lighting, as they can exacerbate the symptoms of flash burn.
Take pain relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
It is important to note that if you experience severe symptoms, such as vision loss or extreme pain, you should seek medical attention immediately.
Additionally, it is always best to take precautions to prevent welding flash burn, such as wearing appropriate eye protection and following safety guidelines when operating welding equipment.
How to protect from Welding Radiations?
To avoid skin and eye damage, the whole body must be protected from radiation.
A face shield is required. A safety helmet for welding is preferable to a protective shield so that the temples are also sufficiently covered. Covers for the skullcap, neck and neck should also be attached to this safety helmet.
All areas of skin that are not covered by the protective clothing must be protected, for example, by the protective hood if necessary and using a UV skin protection cream specially made for welding.
In this way, the people at the welding workstations are not only protected against radiation from neighboring workplaces, but also against radiation reflected by the walls or workpieces. The correct protection level of the eye protection filters must be selected depending on the welding process and the amperage.
For this purpose, eye protection devices according to ANSI Z49.1 or ISO 16321 are used for arc welding. These protective filters must bear a permanent marking in the peripheral zone.
Note that not only the welder himself, but also people in the vicinity can be harmed by the UV radiation produced during welding. The radiation reaches them indirectly by reflecting off ceilings, walls or floors or by penetrating protective devices.
What kind of burn do you get from welding?
Arc welding releases UV rays and bright flashes of light that can burn your unprotected skin in minutes and cause significant discomfort and damage to your eyes, not to mention the sparks that can cause long-term damage.
Can you get skin burns from welding?
Yes, it is possible to get skin burns from welding. Welding involves the use of high temperatures, and if the skin is exposed to these temperatures, it can cause burns. The severity of the burn depends on the temperature and duration of the exposure, as well as the location and size of the affected area.
Welding burns can range from minor to severe, and can result in pain, swelling, blisters, and other complications. In some cases, they can also increase the risk of infection and other long-term health problems.
To prevent skin burns from welding, it is important to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, such as gloves, safety glasses, and welding helmets. It is also important to follow safety guidelines when operating welding equipment, including proper ventilation and equipment maintenance.
Advice to avoid Flash Burns: Use right shade of Welding Glass
Depending on the type of welding you’re doing, you’ll need the right lens for your visor or helmet. MIG welding requires a 12-14 lens, while arc welding usually requires a 10-12 shade glass.
Related Reading: What shade lens is used for welding & welding lens shade chart
TIG welding is usually performed with a lens with filter No. 11. Make sure you have the right visor for work. The ultraviolet light produced during welding is extremely bright and can severely damage your eyes if you don’t wear eye protection. Retinal burns are common in people who don’t wear the right type of visor.
The right helmet has a field of vision that provides UV protection and covers the entire face. The best protection against flash is a helmet that provides automatic darkening through a series of 2-4 sensors and a range of shadow settings, so you have excellent visibility and protection when lightning occurs.
If you use a certain shade while working and a flash occurs, a helmet with automatic darkening adjusts to the brightness of the flash and protects your eyes so that you can continue working comfortably.