Over the years I’ve welded without a mask a handful of times and I can honestly say I’ve learned my lesson. Exposure to welding flash can burn your eyes, and your skin, and even cause permanent damage. The question is what do you do if you have been welding without a mask?
Welding without a mask for long and even short periods of time can burn your eyes and skin. Use skin lotion and eye drops to help soothe the pain. If the pain persists contact your doctor as they will be able to prescribe eye drops that will reduce the pain.
Now that you know what the effects of welding without a helmet are I’m going to share 5 tips that will help you protect your face and eyes. So keep reading.
Can You Weld Without a Mask
To start you don’t want to weld without a welding mask, even if it’s just a few tacts. I know there can be times when you might think that all you have to do is make a few tacts but that’s where things can go wrong. This flawed thinking can lead to a lot of problems that are happening right in front of you.
This happened to me once when I was doing a job welding flower pot holders. This job required a lot of tacking which made it fairly hard to use a welding helmet, and at the time I didn’t have an auto-dark helmet, which would have made the job a whole lot easier.
As a result, I decided to forgo the helmet and just rely on closing my eyes and or holding my welding glove over the weld. At the time I didn’t know what pain I was about to inflict on myself.
When you get burnt by welding flash it’s like getting a sunburn, you usually don’t know there is a problem until there is already a problem. You can only imagine what happened next.
Later on that night, I had what looked like a severe sunburn on my face. Being December this looked kind of odd but that was the least of my worries.
Later on that night, I went through some unimaginable pain when I learned that my eyes were burnt. If you’ve never felt this it’s kind of like someone threw a bunch of sand in your eyes and you can’t get it out.
Your eyes will have a reddish tint to them, your skin will feel like a sunburn and in extreme cases, your eyes and face will look puffy.
That moment taught me a valuable lesson, never weld without a welding mask even if you just have to tack a few things together because it doesn’t take much to burn your face and eyes.
1. Use Your Welding Helmet
Minimize the Damage. The first thing you need to do is continue using your welding helmet. I know this sounds like simple advice but most welders typically fall into this situation because you might be doing something tedious and flipping your helmet up and down every other second takes a lot of work.
Even if you’ve been welding without your helmet for an extended period of time put your helmet back on. This will minimize the damage you are inflicting on yourself.
Second-Hand Flash. Another thing to consider is the second-hand flash you might be getting from other welders around you. Even if you’re not welding the light from other people’s welding can reflect off walls and other surfaces causing you to get welding flash.
This means you don’t even need to be looking at the weld itself to burn your eyes. The reflection is enough to burn your eyes. To prevent this keep your helmet on. You can also put up a welding curtain or some other sort of barrier between you and the weld.
Helmet Covers. The final thing you can do is add helmet covers. These are add-on covers you can put on your helmet Often times you can get flash brunt from second-hand flash around you. With helmet covers hanging above and on top of your helmet it will help protect you from this.
A neck cover clips on the bottom of your welding helmet to protect you from getting flashes from under your helmet. A top cover will clip onto the top of your helmet and goes down to cover your neck. This will help prevent flash burn if someone is welding behind you reflecting off a surface behind you.
2. Use Skin Protection
The next thing you can do is use a skin lotion to help protect your face, neck, and hands. There are also things you can do while you are welding, and after welding to help protect you.
Sunscreen. The first thing you can do is apply a strong sunscreen that will give some protection from the flash. A welding flash is not the same as sitting out in the sun on a 90-degree day. A weld can run between 10,000 to 15,000 degrees at the arc.
To help protect against this try using an SPF 100 or above. I personally like using this sunscreen on Amazon to help protect me.
Side Note: Even though you are using sunscreen while welding this doesn’t mean you can weld without a helmet. A helmet is still going to be your best protection.
Using sunscreen will help protect any uncovered areas you might have.
Skin Lotion. Welding can cause your skin to dry out just like a sunburn. Even if your skin is not in direct contact with the flash it can still dry your skin out.
It’s important that you apply a skin lotion to help protect your skin. When your skin gets flash burnt you need to add moisture back into your skin. To do this you need to find a strong skin moisturizer like this one on Amazon.
I like to apply this every day after I take a shower at the end of a long hard workday. I put lotion on my hands, face, arms, and neck.
However, if you’ve been welding without a helmet and protection putting lotion on immediately after welding can help as well.
3. Use Eye Drops
Next, you’ll want to consider eye drops to help relieve the pain and moisturize your eyes. There are also some natural options as well here that I’ve seen some of my welders at my shop use.
Dry Eyes Protection. The first is dry eye protection. There are several over-the-counter eye drops that you can use here. Here are just a few to consider.
One I use all the time is the Rohto All-in-One Solution. I’ve used this one a lot over the years. It gives a bit of a stinging sensation at first but as the drops set in they give a cooling and relieving effect.
If you want something a bit cheaper with max strength and redness relief then the Rohto Max Strength also works great as well.
If you’ve been welding without a helmet these can keep the eye lubricated longer to hold off the pain. These aren’t a complete solution to arc eye but it’s better than nothing.
Prescription Eye Drops. If your eyes are burnt severally then you will need to see a doctor. They will be able to review your situation and prescribe something much stronger that will numb the eye and give some relief.
Side Note: Never take prescription eye drops more than perscribed as they could harm your eyes and cause permaniate damage.
Having these drops can help relieve the pain but just remember to use them with caution. My doctor was very clear about this. He said over-the-counter eye drops can have the power of a pellet gun. Prescriptions have the power of a rifle shot.
So be careful with these drops and only use them how your doctor has prescribed them.
Natural Solutions. Finally, if you don’t have access to a doctor to get prescription eyedrops then you may be able to try some natural methods.
One I see a few of my employees use from time to time is breast milk and if don’t have that available you could try vitamin D milk. Using a dropper you can put a few drops in each eye to help take the edge off of the pain.
I’ve also tried using potatoes as well. To do this you’ll have to slice the potatoes down into small pieces so they can sit on your eyeball. It claimed that the juices in the potato can relieve the pain. I’ve personally never had that much luck with it but if your looking for options give it a try.
These options can give you some relief like the over-the-counter drops but they aren’t a permanent solution.
4. Contact Your Doctor
If you’ve been tacking without a helmet all day then you could be in for some big issues. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to wait till the pain sets in to do something. Here are a few things you can do.
Contact Your Doctor. If you think that your eyes are burnt but you’re not feeling the pain yet then call your doctor ahead of time. Don’t wait for the pain to set in. You can call your family doctor or even an eye doctor.
Both of these people will be able to look at your eyes ahead of time and give you medication to help soothe the pain before it fully sets in.
I know like a lot of people in the welding profession we tend not to go to the doctor unless there is no other option but flash burnt eyes are nothing to mess around with.
Emergency Room. If your eyes are really bad and your doctor is not available you could try the emergency room. I had one employee in a previous job with got flash burnt so bad that his eyes had swollen up.
Any kind of light inflicted a lot of pain and he had to wrap his head in a black cloth to shut out any light. After a few days, his eyes did heal but if would have just taken preventative measures it probably would have happened or even gotten as bad as it did.
5. Prepare for the Long Night
The final thing you can do is prepare for the long night and if you’ve ever lived through this it can be extremely painful and unpleasant. However, there are some things you can do to prepare for this.
Eyes Drop. First, you’ll want to have your eye drops sitting on the sink in your bathroom. These could be prescriptions or the over-the-counter ones I mentioned.
Put the drops in your eyes to help relieve the pain and take the edge off. Don’t try to open your eyes as this will cause the eyelids to move over the burnt surface of your eyes causing more pain.
Prepare a Wet Cloth. Second, have a washcloth sitting by the sink waiting. This way when the pain sets in you don’t have to fumble through closets to find this stuff.
If the pain does come you’ll want to make the washcloth cold and wet. This will help relieve the pain a little and take the edge of. You’ll want to fold the washcloth and lay it on your eyes.
Keep Your Eyes Shut. Once you’ve taken the eye drops and prepared the wet wash cloth lay down in bed and place the cold damp rag on your eyes.
From this point on you’ll want to keep your eyes closed as long as possible. It may hurt but the more you open your eyes the more pain it will cause.
Fall Asleep. Finally, try to fall asleep. Sleep is the best way to get through the pain. When you wake up in the morning the pain will usually be gone. The eyes tend to heal fast so the more sleep you can get the faster all of this will heal.