Protecting Yourself from the Welding Arc
Since we are talking about protecting yourself from a light brighter than any other you will see and from a heat comparable to the sun, it goes without saying that you have your wits about you.
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The risk is greater when you are exposed to the elements outside. But you should always make sure that your clothing is as dry as possible. The conditions are not always ideal but at every step you should try to mitigate moisture from entering the weld zone and keep yourself dry.
Ultraviolet rays can burn your skin much like a sun burn. But with welding, the same kind of burns that you get on a blistering sunny day in the middle of a Phoenix July can happen within an hour of welding unprotected. If you don’t do anything about it, it can lead to long term health problems including cancer. Wear clothing that it is appropriately sized, not too tight and not too loose. Light can enter through gaps in clothing and burn your skin, even in a short period of time.
Most importantly, ensure that your welding hood is operating correctly. This means that your lens does not have cracks in it, there are no gaps around the edges, etc. A miniscule crack in a welding lens can cause flash burn. This often happens when being exposed to UV light even only for a couple of minutes. The UV light burns your cornea causing small, but irreparable damage to your eyes. You will not feel it initially. It usually sets in later. If you wake up in the middle of the night with a headache and feel as if you have sand in your eye, you probably have flash burn. The pain usually goes away after a day or so.
Α welding arc can be as hot as the surface of the sun. When welding you can feel the heat radiating from the center of the arc. It can become distracting and burn you. A good weld can be ruined because of your own discomfort due to the heat.
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While tighter woven clothing is essential to keeping the harmful UV rays off of your skin, it will not necessarily protect you from the heat. Proper positioning during welding can keep the heat away from you to some degree. Better protection can come from a leather welding jacket or apron. Not only will this keep much of the radiation off of you, but it will also help protect you from hot sparks, hot pieces of slag, and grinding dust.
Ideally you will not notice any of the three components to a welding arc when you are welding. All of the safety equipment is designed so that you can weld as focused as possible, in your own little world under the hood.