Welders face a unique set of additional injury risks compared to other construction workers. A welding eye injury can put a welder out of work for months, and eye injuries are often more prevalent for welders than other job titles in construction. In fact, of the 970 reported head injuries among welding, soldering, and brazing workers in 2020, 550 were to the eyes.
If you suffered an eye injury on the job as a welder, how do you seek compensation for your injuries? Should you file a workers’ comp claim, or do you need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit? New York City’s construction accident lawyer provides more information about welding eye injuries and your next steps to take after an injury in the paragraphs below.
Common Eye Injuries Welders Face
Welders are at high risk for eye injuries on the job. Common eye injuries welders suffer include:
- Welder’s flash burn (arc eye). Flash burns from the brightly burning flame and UV radiation of the welding torch can cause corneal damage. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, inflammation, red or watery eyes, and sensitivity to light.
- Chemical fume irritation. Welders use different fuel sources for their torches and work in environments that can contain chemicals. Cleaning solutions, oil, or even metal fumes from the welding materials can irritate the eyes.
- Slag injuries. Metal sparks can penetrate the skin and bone around the face and eyes with molten metal, leading to a direct injury of the eyes or a long-term buildup of metal materials in a welder’s face. Slag injuries can lead to partial or total loss of vision.
Workers’ compensation will cover workers for eye injuries due to welding, not just for a single incident but also for long-term damage caused over time. Your construction accident attorney in New York City can help you file a claim for injuries you sustained at work, whether due to an accident or a common work hazard in your industry.
What Causes Eye Injuries for Welders?
Welders should always wear approved welding goggles and helmets for the type of welding work they perform. According to the Vision Council, although vision loss is one of the top ten disabilities among American adults, as many as 90% of eye injuries could have been prevented.
Several things can lead to a welding eye injury, including:
- Dust or grit
- UV flash burns
- Metal slag and sparks
- Chemical fumes or burns
- Cuts or scratches to the cornea or eyelids
Proper Eye Protection Reduces Eye Injuries
Construction workers can prevent many eye injuries by wearing the appropriate welding goggles and face shield or helmet. However, many don’t realize how powerful the light from a welding torch can be. Injuries to the eyes from the bright UV light can affect other workers up to 50 feet away, including through reflections. Workers within this 50-foot range can still develop flash burns to their eyes.
What Industries Often Lead to Eye Injuries in Welders?
Welders work in several industries across the country, making them essential for many functions of daily American life. Welders commonly work in:
- Oil rigging
Welders in any industry are at risk of eye injuries. A study at the Wilmer Eye Trauma Center indicated that males in the age group between 20 and 39 years of age were at the highest risk of work-related eye injuries due to projectiles, blunt objects, and chemical splashes, as well as welding eye injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Claims for Welding Eye Injuries
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1.3% of all nonfatal injuries across all occupations in 2020 were eye injuries. However, among welding, soldering, and brazing workers, eye injuries accounted for 7.9% of all nonfatal injuries, over six times as frequent as all other industries combined.
Workers’ compensation will cover your medical bills, lost wages, transportation costs to and from appointments or treatments, and temporary or permanent disability. You do not need to prove negligence or place blame for a workers’ comp claim. The injury simply must have happened at or due to work.
Workers’ comp will cover all medical treatments without requiring a copay if necessary and reasonable. If you must take time off of work for recovery, workers’ compensation will pay two-thirds of your average weekly pay while you are out of work. If you are able to return to light duty, workers’ comp will pay two-thirds of the difference between your previous earnings and your current earnings.
If you suffer permanent loss of vision due to a welding eye injury, New York uses a formula to determine a schedule loss of use (SLU) award. Losing vision in one eye is worth 160 weeks of compensation through workers’ comp.
For example, if you lose 40% of your vision in one eye due to an injury and previously earned $900 per week, you would get a total SLU award of:
2/3 x 40% x $900 x 160 weeks = $38,400
Workers’ comp will award SLU after you reach the maximum medical improvement or MMI.
Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)
MMI is the most that your doctor believes you will recover from your work-related injuries. Even with additional medical treatment, you’re unlikely to improve beyond your current level. Your doctor will evaluate you and assign you a disability rating for you to return to work with restrictions or to collect permanent disability benefits through workers’ comp.
Personal Injury Lawsuits for Eye Injuries Due to Welding
You may also seek compensation against a negligent party in a personal injury lawsuit. Your New York construction accident attorney can help you determine who is liable for your injuries and pursue economic and non-economic damages against them. Potential negligent parties could include:
- Your employer
- A subcontractor
- A vendor
- A manufacturer of faulty equipment
- The property owner of the job site
To bring an injury case forward against a party for a worker injury, you must prove they owed you a duty of care, that they breached their duty, and that their negligence led to your injuries that you likely wouldn’t have sustained otherwise.
Contact a Construction Accident Attorney in New York City
A welding eye injury can have serious consequences for a worker with bills to pay.
Even if you think your injury isn’t severe, know the steps to take after a construction site accident in New York.
What percent of all injuries occur to the eyes in welding?
7.9% of all nonfatal injuries to workers in welding and similar roles were eye injuries. Of the 6,990 nonfatal injuries in 2020 to welding, soldering, and brazing workers, 550 were to the eyes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
By comparison, 3.2% of construction and extraction occupation injuries were eye injuries the same year, making welders over twice as likely to suffer an eye injury as their colleagues in general construction and contracting. Electricians, who share a higher risk for eye injuries, had an eye injury rate of 5.1% of all nonfatal injuries in 2020.
How long does it take for a welder’s eye to heal?
Welder’s eye can take as little as one or two days to heal if welders take the necessary time away from work and treat for flash burn as recommended by their doctors. However, remaining at work or failing to treat strained eyes properly can extend recovery time or lead to worsening symptoms.
Can welding cause permanent eye damage?
Welding injuries over time can lead to a permanent decline in eye function, sometimes even permanent blindness. Risks welders face include bright UV light, metal debris, and dust and dirt irritation from the work environment. A welding eye injury can permanently affect a worker.