Welder’s flash, also known as arc eye or photokeratitis, is a painful condition that affects the eyes and is commonly experienced by welders and individuals working with intense sources of ultraviolet (UV) light. This condition results from prolonged exposure to the intense light produced during welding processes, damaging the cornea and conjunctiva. This article will explore the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures associated with welder’s flash.


Welding is a critical industrial process that involves the fusion of materials using high temperatures and, in turn, produces intense sources of light, particularly ultraviolet (UV) and infrared radiation.

Welder flash condition primarily affects the eyes and can be attributed to two leading causes arising from welding processes: prolonged exposure to UV radiation and the emission of infrared radiation. Understanding these two primary causes is crucial for implementing effective preventive measures and promoting eye safety among welders.

UV Radiation Exposure:

Welding processes generate intense ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is one of the primary causes of welder’s flash. The eyes are particularly susceptible to damage from UV rays, and prolonged exposure without proper protection can lead to inflammation and injury.

Infrared Radiation:

In addition to UV radiation, welding produces significant amounts of infrared radiation. Prolonged exposure to infrared radiation can contribute to the development of welder’s flash. This is why wearing appropriate eye protection that blocks both UV and infrared radiation is essential.


Eye Pain and Discomfort:

Welder’s flash typically manifests as a sharp, stabbing pain in the eyes. Affected individuals may also experience a feeling of grittiness, like having sand in the eyes.

Redness and Swelling:

The eyes may become red and swollen due to the inflammation caused by exposure to UV and infrared radiation. This can contribute to a feeling of discomfort and sensitivity to light.

Excessive Tearing:

Welder’s flash often increases tear production as the eyes attempt to flush out irritants. This can result in watery eyes and a temporary blurring of vision.

Sensitivity to Light:

Photophobia, or sensitivity to light, is a common symptom of a welder’s flash. Individuals may find it challenging to tolerate natural and artificial bright lights.


Protective Eyewear:

The most effective way to prevent welder’s flash is by wearing appropriate protective eyewear. Welding helmets with specially designed lenses that block UV and infrared radiation are essential for safeguarding the eyes during welding.

Regular Breaks:

Regular breaks during extended welding sessions allow the eyes to rest and recover. This can help minimise the risk of developing welder’s flash due to prolonged exposure.

Eye Health Check-ups:

Regular eye check-ups are crucial for individuals engaged in welding or other activities with potential eye hazards. Early detection of any eye-related issues can facilitate prompt treatment and prevent long-term damage.

Welder’s flash is a painful and potentially debilitating condition that can be prevented with the proper use of protective equipment and adherence to safety measures. Welders and individuals working with intense light sources should prioritise eye safety by wearing appropriate eyewear and taking regular breaks to minimise the risk of exposure. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures associated with welder’s flash, workers can ensure the longevity of their eye health and overall well-being.

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Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email: christof@cairnmead.co.za

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