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I was passing by a mall kiosk the other day and tried on a pretty cool looking pair of sunglasses. It got me thinking, I like the look of them, but are they safe for welding?
Can you use sunglasses for welding? It is never considered a good idea to use sunglasses while welding, as you can severely danger your eyesight without proper protection. Welding generates too much intense heat and light and requires more protection than just sunglasses. In addition to safety goggles, you’ll also need to always wear a helmet.
There are many factors to consider when selecting what type of protection you should use while welding; you want to make sure you avoid the many different types of eye injuries that will occur if you wear sunglasses instead of proper protection.
You’ll want to do extensive research into the types of eye protection that are viable options in place of using sunglasses.
Read on for more information about what is the best safety equipment to use to protect your eyes while welding!
Why Do You Need to Wear Safety Protection?
There is no wiggle room here; safety glasses are always required while welding. Arc welding creates such strong arcs of electricity that using anything but safety glasses would surely damage your eyes.
The intense light and heat from the arc ranges in temperature between 6,000 and 11,000 degrees Celsius (10832 and 18032 Fahrenheit), which is a temperature that is hotter than the visible layers of the sun.
I certainly wouldn’t want my eyes staring into that with just sunglasses!
There are three main reasons polarized sunglasses are not adequate to fend off the strong light and heated project by the arc welding.
Polarization blocks only one form of light
While polarized sunglasses can prevent against horizontal light, there are other types of light that you to protect against while welding.
The arc of welding light travels horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Too much of this light would get through and around sunglasses for them to be considered a successful means of light protection while welding.
The welding arc is just too bright
Even the best and darkest polarized sunglasses are not suitable for the strength of the light from a welding arc.
If you take a look at welding glasses and shields, you’ll notice they are a lot darker than the average pair of sunglasses. They are so dark that it would be impossible to use welding glasses as sunglasses.
So naturally, it wouldn’t make sense to use sunglasses as welding glasses as they are too light.
Welding produces other harmful toxins besides just light
in addition to visible light, a welding arc also produces infrared and ultraviolet light, which sunglasses are not able to fend off.
While sunglasses might be possible to protect against regular light, you likely wouldn’t find a pair able to protect against infrared light as well.
When thinking about what type of welding glasses to get, you need to consider more factors than just regular sunlight. In fact, sunlight shouldn’t be much of a consideration at all.
The types of light, the direction of the light, and the brightness of the welding arc are all things to consider.
Do Sunglasses Offer any Protection from welding light?
So, is it ever ok to use sunglasses while welding? Do they offer any eye protection whatsoever?
Not only do welders typically wear a helmet and safety glasses while welding, but most welders also opt to use a visual barrier around what they are working on to prevent the light from their arc to interfere with the vision of other people in the room.
Sunglasses are considered completely useless as a means of protection while welding. There is simply too much electricity, and temperatures are too hot that sunglasses do no good while welding.
What If You Need to Wear Eyeglasses?
This is a valid question.
Are you trying to wear prescription sunglasses and use them as your sole means of protection while welding?
There are several suggestions for those who need corrective lenses while welding. You should still never rely simply on eyeglasses or sunglasses for protection.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “If properly protected in accordance with the OSHA Standards applicable to eye protection (ANSI Z87.1-1968) during the welding operation the use of contact lenses is acceptable.”
While contact lenses are acceptable, there is some discussion that welders can get itchy eyes, as some dust and material could get trapped under the contact lenses.
You might be able to ask some other welders either in person or on an online message board what their personal experiences have been while wearing contact lenses and welding.
Laser eye surgery – while it might seem drastic, if welding is your passion or your career, you could consider laser eye surgery under your doctor’s guidance.
Get prescription safety glasses – you can get prescription glasses that include side shields. You would then wear your welding helmet for protection over these safety glasses.
While you should never wear sunglasses as your primary protection when welding, there are several options available if you need corrective lenses.
Everybody is different, and you should consider the best option for your needs before making a major decision.
Eye Injury Prevalence
The real question to ask is, “how do I best prevent eye injuries while welding?”
“Eye injuries account for one quarter of all welding injuries, making them the most common injury to occur while you are welding, according to research from the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety.”
It’s very important to follow safety rules and regulations.
The best way to control eye injuries is also the most simple: proper selection and use of eye protection. As a welder, you need to wear more than just a helmet, as helmets do not offer enough protection by themselves.
According to Lincoln Electric, Goggles or safety glasses should always be worn under welding helmets, and they should comply with ANSI Z87.1.
Goggles typically provide better safety than just safety glasses and help prevent injuries from impact, dust, or even radiation hazards.
ANSI Z87.1—This regulation is the official standard for that prescribes the design, performance specifications, and marking of safety eye and face products.
This includes millions of safety goggles, spectacles, face shields, and welding helmets, worn by workers in thousands of manufacturing and processing facilities, university and research laboratories, and other occupational settings.
Types of Eye Injuries
Not only are eye injuries the most common type of welding injury, but there are also several different types of eye injuries that will likely occur if you chose to only wear sunglasses.
If you get struck by any flying particles, you could physically damage your eyeball, cornea, retina, etc. Sunglasses would not protect you from physical debris that is flying around as you weld.
Radiation and Photochemical Burns from ultraviolet radiation (UVR)
Radiation could burn your eyeball. That does not sound fun when you could avoid it by wearing the proper eye protection.
Irritation and Chemical Burns from fumes and chemicals
Strong chemicals could cause additional burns to your eyes.
In addition to one-time injuries, welding without proper protection can also cause damage from repetitive injuries.
For example, “arc eye” or “arc flash” is a very painful injury that can be permanent, and it is caused by long exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
While wearing your Ray-Bans or Oakleys to weld my make you think you look aesthetically pleasing, you certainly do not want to risk blinding yourself for the sake of vanity and how good you look in the mirror.
Any of the above injury types could cause blindness in their most extreme instances, and at minimum, they will cause pain and discomfort.
Specifically, one of the topics mentioned above is worth further discussion. Welder’s flash is some of the worst pain you can experience.
It’s essentially a sunburn on your eyeballs.
Nobody wants to feel that!
Welder’s flash is when the outer layer of your eyeball gets burned by the intense UV radiation that occurs when a welding arc is generated.
It’s possible that you won’t feel the symptoms of welder’s flash for a few hours after you got burned. Once you feel it once, you’ll never want to feel it again.
Common symptoms include:
- Puffy, red eyes
- A gritty sensation that feels like sand in your eyes
- Abnormal sensitivity to look at light
Since none of that probably sounds like fun, let’s make sure you use safety measures while welding that are better than just sunglasses.
You should also know that everyone in the room with you while you are welding can get welder’s flash. Let’s make sure nobody is around who is staring closely and directly at your welding.
If someone wants to observe your process that would need the same protective equipment that you have.
What is the Best Safety Protection While Welding?
UV blocking protective spectacles with side shields or welding goggles should be considered your primary protection while welding and the face shield or helmet is the secondary source of protection.
As a good safety measure, you should be in the habit of using both a primary protection and a secondary protection while welding.
Since sunglasses aren’t an option for you while welding, what is?
It’s important to do your research on what is the right equipment.
You want to make sure you are not only protected but also that you still the right about of visibility to successfully weld.
Since we’ve ruled out sunglasses, selecting which goggles to use is an important decision to make. Welding goggles will give you the closest feel to glasses if that is what you’re going for, but they do not protect the entire face, only your eyes.
I also just came across the Servore welding goggles and am thinking about getting a pair. Here’s a review of them.
Check out the Servore welding goggles here for more information. I’m a big fan!
Helmets and Face Shields
Since you’ll also need more than just goggles for your secondary protection, it’s also important to spend time selecting the right helmet.
Helmets and face shields will provide much-needed protection to your whole face when welding. Depending on the type of welding that you’re doing, this protection may be more or less necessary.
Here are some helmet and face shield options available on Amazon:
- Lincoln Electric Viking 3350
- Hobart 770890
- YESWELDER LYG-M800H
- Antra AH7-360-0000 Auto Darkening Welding Helmet
Any of the above options would be great goggles and helmets for you to use while Arc Welding! OSHA has also put together an excellent Fact Sheet on how to select goggles and helmets for welding. If you’re still not sure what to get, check out some videos below for more information.
Video Reviews for Goggles and Helmets
Are you still wondering what type of eye care to purchase to ensure your eyes are safely protected while you are welding?
There are several product reviews available on YouTube here.
While the above products on Amazon and the Reviews on YouTube can help point you towards selecting the best goggles, don’t be afraid to ask around in the welding community.
What do other welders use?
If you’re at work, what do your co-workers use? What does your safety department recommend (or require)? Sometimes word of mouth can provide the best recommendation on what products to use.
How to Select the Right Helmet: Passive v Auto-Darkening Lens
In addition to the above, there are a few other tips for selecting the right welder’s helmet.
There are numerous welding helmet options: passive or auto-darkening lens, fixed or variable shade, two, three or four sensors, and viewing size.
Taking the time to find the right helmet for your needs can increase your productivity and weld quality, as well as your comfort.
Source: Miller Welds
The biggest difference is that auto-darkening welding lenses get dark as soon as you start your torch and get clearer when you are not using the torch, whereas passive lenses are made of colored glass and don’t ever change colors.
Auto-darkening lenses are more convenient than standard passive glass welding lenses. While wearing auto-darkening lenses, you do not need to take your helmet off to see your work.
Passive welding lenses, on the other hand, are generally more optically clear (giving you better vision while torching), and much cheaper than auto-darkening lenses.
Source: Phillips Safety Products
The choice might come down to how much money you want to spend. Passive helmets are generally cheaper, but while they are perfectly reliable, the auto-darkening is definitely a nice feature to have.
Never Wear Just Safety Goggles
While you should always wear safety goggles while welding, you should never wear just safety goggles. It is imperative for your safety that in addition to wearing safety goggles, you also wear a welding helmet.
While safety goggles themselves are certainly an improvement over sunglasses, you are still leaving yourself exposed to the elements without also wearing a helmet.
Don’t forget, while using the proper Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) in the form of goggles and a helmet is vitally important, you also want to make sure you are following proper and safe welding procedures to eliminate the risk of exposure to the elements.
Caring for your PPE
You need to properly care for your goggles, helmet, and other protective equipment. Keep it all in good condition. You should follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleaning and maintaining your equipment.
It might seem obvious, but don’t wear goggles that are overly scratched or marked up, as this will get in the way of your vision and could affect you from welding safely and with precision.
To properly care for your helmet, consider the following:
Check all its parts on a regular basis. Start out with the lens – is it clogged or dirty? Use a soft brush to dust it, and you can use water or a lens solution to clean its surfaces.
After the lens, inspect the other parts of the headgear. Are any parts defective or not working? If you have more than one defective part, replace them all at once, so you don’t compromise the safety of the helmet.
Check your helmet for dents or cracks. This includes checking for loose screws. Loose screws can lead to severe damage to you, and they can be replaced fairly cheaply and easily.
Store your helmet in a proper way – choose a temperature controlled storage area where it’s not in danger of falling and denting or cracking.
Check your batteries. Some helmets are battery powered, and you should periodically check the status of the batteries.
While just choosing to wear goggles and a helmet goes a long way to your safety, do not forget to maintain it properly over its lifetime to ensure you remain safe.
Sunglasses Are Not An Option While Welding!
If you have one takeaway from this article, it’s that sunglasses are not the answer to use as eye protection while you are welding.
You need to wear a minimum of safety goggles and a helmet to ensure you are adequately protected from the heat and electricity that are produced by arc welding.