Eye injury – flash burns

flash burns

Flash burns (welders flash) are common painful complaints following welding on farms. Flash burns occur when the cornea (the clear tissue that covers your eyes) has been exposed to ultraviolet light. Flash burns are like sunburn in the eye. A flash burn occurs when you are exposed to bright ultraviolet (UV) light when using a welding device. Sources of UV light include a welding torch, direct sunlight, reflection of the sun off water or snow, a sunlamp and other lamps including halogen lamps.

Flash burn symptoms develop five to 10 hours after exposure, and include burning watery eyes, red eyes, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and feeling like you have something in your eye. They can be easily prevented by using eye protection such as a welder’s mask.

Flash burn can be incredibly painful. Treatment – depending on severity, may include: local anaesthetic drops, pain killers and eye padding to rest the eye. Flash burns can become infected and require antibiotic treatment. If infections are left untreated there is an increased risk of vision impairment and loss.

Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel

References used for this topic page

More information:

Victoria Health

Eye injuries (Flash burns)

Better Health Channel

Eye safety at work

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Radiation and the effects on eyes and skin

Healthlink British Columbia

Burns to the eye

WorkSafe QLD
Recommended Personal Protection Equipment for welding

National Ag Safety Database (US)

Eye protection for farmers

Clinical care:

College of Optometrists (UK)


Research & reviews:

Monash University – Monash Injury Research Institute

Unintentional adult eye injuries in Victoria

Fast facts:

Eye injury – flash burns

  • Flash burns are like sunburn in your eyes and caused by bright ultraviolet (UV) light, they burn your cornea.
  • If you have blurred vision, sore eyes, see spots or flashes, see your doctor.
  • Untreated flash burns can cause permanent eye damage.
  • Always use a recommended Australian Standard welder’s mask when welding.

Last updated: 7th February, 2019