Ultraviolet (UV) light is a form of electromagnetic energy invisible to humans. UV light falls below visible light on the electromagnetic spectrum, so it does not trigger the natural defenses of the eyes, such as pupil dilation experienced with bright visible light. For this reason, it is important to use personal protective equipment and not to disable any safety controls designed into the UV light source. Many people often mistake the bright light coming off these systems as harmful, but in reality, what they are seeing is harmless visible light.
While all UV light has the potential to harm an employee when used carelessly, the shortwave UV energy (UV-C) poses the greatest risk to those using these light sources. Most UV sources sold in the light-curable adhesive market incorporate the safer UV-A energy. It is important to review the specifications for your own UV source before using it.
Ultraviolet light exposure is the primary cause of melanoma. Most cases of melanoma, however, are preventable by protecting yourself from effects of UV exposure.
In industrial settings UV exposure is often misunderstood, but it is in these settings where manufacturers have the greatest control over a worker’s health and safety.
Industrial UV light-curing systems are often designed with safety or engineering controls built into them. These controls, such as shielding, safety interlocks, intuitive design, and light-absorbing plastics, allow operators to use them without ever exposing themselves to harmful ultraviolet light. Teaching employees how to protect themselves from UV exposure and training them to work safely around these UV systems will minimize any potential risk of harm.
A device called a radiometer can be used to demonstrate the amount of UV light an employee is exposed to while operating a UV curing system. Taking the radiometer’s sensor and holding it near a person's exposed skin while the unit is on, and then comparing this to what a person is exposed to outside on a sunny day, will show the individual is experiencing greater exposure from the sun. It is important to match the radiometer to the UV wavelength being measured.
When used properly and in conjunction with personal protective equipment and training, industrial UV light sources are safe and easy to use.