How long does an arc flash last?

What is Welders Flash?

Welders flash is the name given to the burning sensation experienced when welding. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain which may require medical attention. Welders flash usually occurs after prolonged exposure to sparks or other high voltage electrical fields.

It is caused by the oxidation of certain metals such as copper, zinc, tin and lead. These metals are present in all types of electrical equipment and most commonly found in circuit boards. When exposed to these high voltages, they react with oxygen in the air causing them to release hydrogen gas. The gas is then transferred to the surface of the skin and once there, it releases a highly flammable gas called hydrogen oxide (more commonly known as water). This gas in turn emits singlet oxygen which can cause severe irritation of the eyes, nose or mouth. If the gas is inhaled it can even burn your lungs. It is the grease in the eye which causes severe pain and the reason it burns. Nowadays the use of lead, a particularly dangerous element, in electrical equipment is highly regulated. However, most welding also uses shielding gases such as argon and carbon dioxide in a confined space. Most cases of welders flash go away after a few days without any treatment.

Welders flash can affect one part or all parts of the body it comes in contact with. Depending on the welding equipment, this gas can also cause serious contaminants to the air. Even the slag, which is created by the welding process can contain toxic metals such as aluminium and copper.

Your gas mask will only protect you from the oxygen deficiency and not the other harmful gases so it is better to avoid welding in such a manner. If you are already in this situation, the best way to treat welders flash is to wash your eyes out with lots of water and use sterile eye drops as soon as possible. If the pain persists and/or blisters have formed on your eyes, you should seek medical treatment.

Welding flash is mostly caused by the welding process as described above. It can also be caused by skin contact with toxic metals such as lead and cadmium. There are several symptoms to recognize welders flash.

You should seek immediate medical treatment if you experience any of the following:

The first sign is a very dry and itchy skin. This often occurs a few days after exposure but can also be felt straight after. The dryness is usually accompanied by minor swelling and skin redness.

The skin will feel hot to touch.

Severe pain which occurs suddenly is the second symptom you may experience. This is commonly experienced by welders who have not taken any preventative measures. It can be felt all over the body but is especially concentrated in the face, hands and feet.

The pain is caused by the rapid heating of the skin and is similar to sunburn.

After the pain has subsided, a burning sensation may be felt. This is caused by the burn and can last for several weeks.

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The first signs of serious damage are blistering and peeling of the skin. These will appear within a day or two and can be found on all parts of the body exposed to the welding process. The skin will also develop a permanent brown colour.

Permanent scarring and pigmentation may occur after the blisters and peeling skin subside. The pigmentation may fade over time but scarring will remain.

The final stage, paralysis, is very rare and occurs only after severe and prolonged exposure.

Welders flash is a very serious condition which can cause permanent damage to the eyes, skin and nervous system. Always wear a protective mask, goggles and gloves when welding. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above seek medical treatment immediately.

You could not believe that this would happen. You had left your gas mask at home and now you are almost certain that you have the welders flash. Your eyes are very sore and you can hardly open them.

Your hands, arms and legs are also very sore and you can hardly feel anything. You have been driving for over twelve hours now and are pretty certain that you are in Missouri. You decided to continue driving after the sun had gone down so you are relying on a roadside rest area map to tell you where you are, it is difficult to read but you believe that you are near a town called Truscott.

You have to get to a hospital, but the problem is that you do not know how you are going to be received. The further you drive into Truscott, the more paranoid you become. You turn on the radio to hear a news report.

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