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Welding Without a Mask? Here is What Could Go Wrong

welding without a mask

Never take welding lightly. It’s a dangerous activity that could negatively affect your health if the right precautions aren’t taken.

So why are people tempted to leave the welding mask behind? Welding without a mask or helmet is something that might seem simple and more natural, especially if you think you are going to be quick and nothing is possibly going to happen to your eyes for just a couple seconds of light.

However, you should really consider the consequences before making that decision.

Welding without a mask causes the bright welding light to directly hit your eyes. This could permanently affect your ability to look at bright lights, making it difficult and painful to see things since your eyes will inevitably become too sensitive to any form of light. This may compromise your ability to weld, preventing you to conduct this kind of work again in the future.

This is only the main side effect of looking directly at the welding light, other consequences could also happen. For example, I can mention burns and respiratory problems, we’re going to examine these problems and explain the risks you take when you weld.

Luckily though, you have different ways to protect yourselves against these effects and you can easily access them.

Further on in this article, we’re going to see what you can do to prevent permanent damages to your body.

Main Side effects of Welding Without a Mask

#1 Arc-eye

Its popular name is welder’s flash and it’s the most common side effect of welding without protection.

The welding arc generates a bright UV radiation similar to the one the sun gives off. When you weld without a mask, this radiation hits your eyes directly causing an inflammation of the cornea. This is commonly why your eyes hurt after welding without a helmet on.

But be careful: you might not experience the symptoms right away since it can take up to a few hours for them to manifest.

Some of the most common signs of arc-eye in a person include pressure or pain and unusual watering of the eyes, difficulty in looking at light sources and reddening of the area around the pupils.

#2 Blindness

No need to get worried right away. Although blindness is a severe counter effect, it only gets to that if you’ve been welding without eye protection for a long time, repeatedly.

Other main concerns are cataracts and trouble seeing everything you look at, but you can avoid all of this with the right equipment. Soon we’re going to explain what that is.

#3 Exposure to radiation

Something you might not know is that, when you weld, UV radiations are not the only ones that hit you.

Those radiations are already bad enough for your skin since they may increase the chances of you developing skin cancer. However, infrared radiation is also another thing that gets in contact with your body when you weld.

Here’s the catch: infrared radiation is what cooks food in a microwave. What does this mean?

Your body absorbs infrared radiation, and, although the effects are neither visible nor serious, we’d still recommend wearing a helmet.

Other Side Effects

Extreme heat

extreme heat when welding

Welding takes heat to an extreme level, and for this reason, if you’re not careful, you might experience welding burn.

The heat the welding arc emits can hurt your skin with minor burns and cause blisters. In some cases, it can also singe your eyebrows or facial air.

It’s also not news that the act of welding generates sparks. If you don’t wear a welding mask and a spark hits your skin, you might experience some more serious burns.

Not to mention that, if the sparks hit your eye directly, it can lead to permanent blindness.

Breathing problems

The act of welding produces smoke when you work, and that smoke can compromise your lungs and respiratory system.

Welding without a mask can have side effects on your breathing which include throat irritation and dizziness if you breathe the only fumes for a short time.

However, if you breathe the fumes for a long time, the damage might lead to lung or larynx cancer. Not to mention it could also damage your nervous system and your kidneys.

Remember you can still experience some of these effects if you wear a helmet but you weld without a respirator.

After describing the main side effects you can encounter when welding without a mask, I strongly advice taking the necessary precautions in order to avoid serious damages to your health.

I’m now going to explain how you can protect yourselves against UV radiations as well as burns and fumes.

Be always sure to know what you are doing before starting to weld.

How to prevent health damages

Welding Helmet

welding helmet

The first and most important thing you need to own when you weld is a welding helmet, or mask. You can easily purchase a helmet, and they’re the key element to protect your eyes and your skin while welding.

Most helmets feature a tinted glass or plastic window for the user to see through and this filter is what protects your sight when you weld.

However, the protection isn’t limited to your eyes. The helmet covers and protects your face, head, and in some cases even shoulders against UV radiations, burns and sparks.

Welding Respirator

Another useful tool which is crucial for the protection of your respiratory system is the welding respirator. This mask filters welding fumes and increases your safety. You can position the latter to fit underneath the helmet and you can protect yourself from both radiations and fumes.

Before welding, you need to also pay attention to the safety distance. While we’d always advice wearing a mask, no matter how far you are from the arc, we absolutely recommend wearing a welding helmet if you are less than 10 meters away from the welding light.

Here is a relevant video on how to weld safely:


Here were the main things you need to consider before choosing to weld without a proper welding mask. Welding safely is crucial if you’re planning on continuing to weld and if you care about your sight and health.

Bottom line is: wear a welding helmet to protect your eyes, skin and respiratory system from permanent and severe damages.

Also remember that a mask isn’t the only safety measure you have to take. Gloves, sleeves and shoulder protections as just as important.

Related Questions

What happens if you look at a welding light?

Directly looking at a welding light from a short distance can cause eye damage that can go from dizziness, pain and redness of the eyes if you look for a short time, to more severe consequences such as retinal damage and blindness if you repeatedly look for longer periods of time. You might also experience minor burns on your skin due to the heat.

How do you treat welder’s flash at home?

To avoid an infection, wear padded dressing on your eyes and use sunglasses if your eyes are too sensitive. Take over the counter medication such as Aspirin and Ibuprofen, and use eye drops to keep your eyes from getting too dry and help them heal faster.
Ice packs are useful to reduce pain, while tea bags can reduce swelling if you apply them to your eyes.

2 thoughts on “Welding Without a Mask? Here is What Could Go Wrong”

  1. I think I made a mistake to watch a short video on arc welding over my cell phone
    I no nothing about welding
    It was strange that it showed welding in the dark
    I watched it for several minutes before I realized that I’m learning nothing but may be damaging my eyes ?
    Can I damage my eyes watching that video?

  2. Live welding is different from watching a video of welding on your device.
    A special camera has been employed to make sure you the viewer are able to see the welding as close as possible to what you would see in real life.
    If you were to film the welding process with your phone or a compact camera, all you would see on that video is a bright flash that takes over the entire scren.

    the pixels mimimic reality, but they cannot replicate the heat or dangerous UV rays.

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