Even if you’ve never welded before, you’ve probably seen movies or television shows (or perhaps a construction site) where welders wear safety glasses or helmets with face shields. They also place curtains or blankets around the work site to seal off the area from onlookers. It’s common knowledge that, much like a solar eclipse, the light of a welding arc is so bright it requires shaded eye protection. Can polarized sunglasses provide adequate protection from this light?
The answer is a resounding, absolute, unequivocal NO.
Welding and Polarized Sunglasses
Arc welding creates an arc of electricity between the metal being manipulated and an electrode on the welding machine. This arc projects intense light and heat that ranges between 6,000 and 11,000 degrees Celsius…a temperature that is hotter than the visible layers of the sun. The light produced by a welding arc cannot be adequately blocked by polarized lenses for three main reasons:
- Polarization blocks only one form of light.
- The welding arc is simply too bright.
- Welding produces other harmful forms of light beyond visible light.
Polarization is a process of filtering out horizontal light. It’s effective against typical forms of reflected light that strike your eyes directly, or horizontally. The light of an arc weld, however, travels horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. A polarized lens cannot provide protection against all these forms of light and would allow enough through to damage your eyes.
Secondly, a welding arc is simply too bright for even the darkest polarized lens to handle. No standard sunglass lens can handle the radiance cast off by the arc. Notice how dark welding glasses or masks are…they are far too dark to be used as sunglasses. Thus, the reverse it true – sunglasses are far too light to be used as welding glasses. Welding glasses are that dark for a reason and sunglasses cannot compete with them.
Finally, a welding arc produces not just visible light but also infrared and ultraviolet light. All three forms are harmful to the human eye. Even if sunglasses were dark enough to prevent visible light damage, they may not necessarily be designed to filter out the UV and IR light of the arc.
There’s no middle ground here: special welding glasses are required to safeguard your eyes while welding. Phillips Safety Products offers multiple options designed specifically for the task of welding. These glasses utilize gray or green Athermal lenses from Schott, the world-famous German glass maker, in shades that are dark enough to provide complete protection from all forms of light, visible and invisible. Phillips also offers Alloweld lenses, clip-on flip-ups, and window sheeting that provide complete shielding from a variety of welding tasks.