How Can Burn Accidents in the Workplace Be Prevented?January 25, 2023
Burn accidents like fires, explosions, and exposure to hazardous chemicals or power lines can cause extremely serious and excruciatingly painful burn injuries. Depending on the severity of the burn, it can cause permanent scarring, nerve damage, and require multiple surgeries to treat. In some cases, a serious burn injury can be fatal. As devastating as these injuries are, burn accidents in the workplace are largely preventable if workers and employers take the necessary steps to take proactive steps to make safety a top priority at all times. If you or a loved one suffered a serious burn injury while on the job, you are urged to contact an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer at your earliest convenience.
What Are the Different Types of Workplace Burns?
There are a number of different types of burns that can occur in the workplace if the necessary safety protocols are not followed, including the following:
- Thermal burns: These are caused by exposure to hot liquids or steam, open flames, hot objects, and explosions.
- Electrical burns: This type of burn occurs when an electrical current travels through the body, resulting in a heat burn injury.
- Chemical burns: There are a number of different chemicals that can cause a burn injury, including acids, alkaloids, and other corrosive or caustic material.
- Sun exposure burns: Construction workers, trench workers, and other employees who work outdoors during peak sun hours can suffer sun exposure burns if they are not careful.
How Are Burn Injuries Classified?
Burn injuries are classified based on how deep and severe they penetrate the skin’s surface. They range in severity from first to fourth degree burns.
- First degree: This type of burn affects the top layer of skin, also known as the epidermis. The affected area becomes red, painful to the touch and slightly swollen. A sunburn is a common example of a first-degree burn.
- Second degree: This is a more serious burn as it extends to the second layer of skin, or the dermis. It causes a deep reddening of the skin, blistering, extreme pain, and a possible loss of some skin. In some cases, the skin may have a glossy appearance due to leaking fluid.
- Third degree: This type of burn affects all of the layers of skin and results in the permanent loss of tissue. The injured party may not experience pain since the tissue in the affected area is destroyed, although the victim may feel pain from the first and second-degree burns that surround the third-degree burns. The skin will appear dry, leathery and may have areas that appear white, brown, or black.
- Fourth degree: These are the most serious type of burn and are often life-threatening. They affect all of the layers of skin, as well as the muscles, tendons, and bones.
What Are the Most Effective Ways to Prevent Burn Accidents?
The vast majority of burn accidents are preventable if employers take the necessary steps to train employees, ensure that fire extinguishers and automatic fire suppression systems are available, provide the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensure that potential burn hazards are identified and addressed. Employees can also reduce the risk of being injured in a burn accident by making safety a priority and following the recommended safety protocols. The following are examples of effective strategies that will help prevent burn accidents in the workplace.
Preventing thermal burns:
- Reduce exposure to flames, hot surfaces and liquids that are over 115 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Keep your workspace clean so that dust and debris does not accumulate.
- Keep combustible and flammable materials away from sparks and open flames.
- Maintenance employees should wear flame-resistant clothing.
- Do not reach over or through hot surfaces, pipes, or chemicals.
- Follow all lines-breaking procedures to prevent pipes from breaking.
- If you are unsure if a surface or piece of equipment is hot, do not touch it unless you are wearing the necessary PPE.
Make sure that you take the following steps if you are exposed to a thermal heat source:
- Move to a safe area and stop the burning. Remove any clothing that is on fire and stop, drop, and roll to put out any flames.
- If the accident caused a first-degree burn, place the affected area in cold water and elevate the burned body part in order to reduce swelling. Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- Second-degree burns should be treated the same way as first-degree burns, but do not apply cold water. Cover any blisters with dry, non-sticking, sterile dressing.
- Third-degree burns require immediate medical attention, particularly if the injured worker is in shock. The affected area should be covered with dry- sterile, non-stick dressing as well.
Preventing chemical burns:
- Read the labels and safety data sheets (SDS) for any chemical that you are working with and be sure to handle the chemicals according to the directions.
- Always wear the appropriate PPE for the chemical that you are working with.
- Make sure that you know where the nearest first aid is, as well as the eye wash station and fire equipment before you start a job working with any type of chemical.
- Have a clear understanding of the chemical you are exposed to, and the precautions that should be taken to prevent a burn accident.
Take the following steps if you are exposed to a hazardous chemical:
- Remove all contaminated clothing immediately.
- After brushing off any loose powder, flush the area with water for at least 20 minutes.
- If the chemical gets into your eye, flush the eye with clean water from a low-pressure source, keeping your eye open while flushing.
Preventing electrical burns:
- Follow all Lock-Out/Tag-Out procedures when performing electrical work and wear the necessary clothing and PPE.
- Make sure that you are aware of the electrical sources that exist in your workspace.
- All employees should receive the necessary training on electrical safety.
- All overhead power lines should be marked, and equipment operators should be trained.
- Make sure that you know the recommended clearance distances from power lines to avoid an arc.
If you or another worker has been exposed to electricity, take the following steps:
- Turn off the water and make the workspace safe.
- Do not approach or touch the injured person until the power has been shut off.
- Check the person’s airway, breathing, and circulation and seek medical attention if the individual shows signs of going into shock.
Preventing sun exposure burns:
- Whenever possible, schedule outdoor work as early in the day as possible.
- Take multiple breaks throughout the day to hydrate and get relief from the heat.
- Schedule more physically demanding work during the cooler times of the day.
- Know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, including confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, or loss of consciousness and seek immediate treatment and medical attention.
What Do I Do If I Suffer a Burn Injury at Work?
If you suffered a burn injury while on the job, seek immediate medical attention, even if the burn seems relatively minor. A burn that is left untreated can become infected and lead to more serious health complications.
Report the injury to your employer as soon as possible and file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. This is the first step to receiving financial compensation for expenses related to your injuries, including emergency medical care, surgeries, prescription medications, and physical therapy, as well as lost wages if you are unable to return to work for an extended period of time, or permanently, and total or partial disability benefits if your injury prevents you from being able to return to your job in the same capacity or if you are permanently disabled. If the burn accident resulted in a devastating fatality, your surviving family members may file a wrongful death claim, which may entitle them to the following damages:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Out-of-pocket medical expenses
- Loss of insurance benefits
- A percentage of the deceased’s weekly wages
If the injury was caused by a third party’s negligence, you may want to consider filing a personal injury lawsuit as well. This will begin the process to pursue damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of quality of life and other emotional injuries caused by a serious burn injury. A skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer can guide you through this process and recommend the best legal course of action.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Victims of Burn Accidents
If you suffered a serious burn injury in the workplace, contact the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Southern Maryland, and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.