In recognition of National Burn Awareness Week (NBAW), The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., seeks to educate employers and workers on workplace burn hazards, tips to prevent on-the-job injuries and steps to take if an accident occurs.
Organized by the American Burn Association (ABA), NBAW is observed during the first full week of February. It is designed to educate the public about common burn hazards and ways to prevent burn injuries in the home and on the job.
National Burn Awareness Week (#NBAW): February 7-13, 2021
Burn Injuries in the Workplace
Burns in the workplace account for a considerable portion of all burns. As data from OSHA and the NCBI show:
- Workplace burn injuries account for 10-45% of all burns.
- Work-related fires and explosions are a leading cause of on-the-job burns and deaths.
- Over 40,000 workers are injured each year due to thermal burns, and more than 15,000 are injured due to chemical burns.
- Burn injuries result in an average of 4 days of missed work. More severe burns can cause temporary disability or an inability to return to work entirely.
Types of Burn Injuries
Various hazards can cause burn injuries, but typically these accidents result from an energy transfer to the body. Common types of burns experienced by workers include those caused by thermal, radiation, chemical and electrical contact.
- Thermal burns are caused by external heat sources that raise skin temperature and cause tissue cell death or charring. Items such as hot metals, scalding liquids, steam and flames can cause thermal burns when they come into contact with skin.
- Chemical burns occur when skin or eyes directly contact strong acids, alkalis, solvents or detergents.
- Electrical burns are caused by contact with electrical current, including either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).
- Radiation burns are caused by prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays, such as those from the sun or x-rays.
Burns can also be classified by their severity and how deep they penetrate the surface of the skin.
- First-degree burns, or superficial burns, affect only the outer layer of skin (epidermis). The site of injury is dry, red and painful, but does not blister and usually heals within 3 to 6 days.
- Second-degree burns, or partial-thickness burns, affect the part of the dermis layer of skin. These burns appear red and blistered, may be painful and swollen and heal within 7 to 21 days.
- Third-degree burns, or deep partial-thickness burns, damage the deepest layer of the skin (hypodermis). These burns nearly always result in blisters and scarring and take more than 21 days to heal.
- Fourth-degree burns, or full-thickness burns, can damage tendons, muscles, and bones beneath the skin. These burns appear white or charred, and because nerve endings are damaged, there is no sensation in the area. These burns require surgical treatment and result in severe scarring.
Occupations Most at Risk for Burn Injuries
Accidental burns can happen to anyone, but some workers are more at risk due to the nature of their jobs:
- Manufacturing: Workers in manufacturing industries experience the highest rates of burn injuries, according to data from the NCBI. Many of these injuries result from working with heavy machinery, heat and flames, dangerous chemicals, steam and electrical equipment.
- Construction: Construction workers face a variety of burn risks, including those involving the use of specialized tools and machinery, welding, open electrical wiring and fires or explosions.
- Electrical workers: Workers in electrical and appliance industries face burn risks related to their work with wiring and machinery. Certain trades, including utility workers, linemen and others who work with or around high-voltage equipment, face elevated risks of electrocution.
- Restaurant / food service: Food workers, including back-of-the-house staff and servers, work in fast-paced environments with appliances, liquids and items that can reach very high temperatures. Workers in these industries account for a substantial portion of all work-related burns.
Tips for Employers to Protect Workers from Burn Injuries
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Provide proper safety equipment and PPE, and make sure workers in high-risk jobs, such as welding, electrical work and chemical processing, have the proper equipment and training needed to complete tasks safely.
- Emergency Preparedness: Ensure worksites have appropriate fire protection and emergency systems, including fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems, burn or wash stations and detectors. Workers should be trained on emergency action plans. Employers must also comply with OSHA standards regarding hazard communications and display safety guidance posters prominently.
- Worksite processes: Ensure compliance in worksite layout, site-specific erection plans and construction sequencing, ventilation and electrical wiring methods. Implement protocols for the safe use and removal of chemicals, chemical waste and hot liquids, and make certain that job tasks comply with OSHA standards related to the transportation, storage and handling of hot or flammable materials.
- Training: Provide sufficient and regular training to ensure workers know how to work with equipment or tools that pose burn risks and that they know how to comply with lock-out / tag-out and bleed-off processes when working with energy sources, including natural gas lines.
Tips for Workers to Stay Safe and Protect Their Coworkers
Know how to act in an emergency: Familiarize yourself with exists and posted evacuation plans for every building you enter and respond to every alarm as if it were a real fire. If you hear an evacuation or fire alarm, leave immediately.
Always wear PPE: Always wear proper PPE when working with hot items, open flames and scalding liquids. Employees who work with chemicals, electrical equipment, welding and other hazards should wear task-specific protective equipment.
Respect electrical hazards: Always give healthy respect to electrical hazards by knowing where electrical work is being performed on a site, watching for overhead powerlines, keeping cords and equipment away from water or flammable materials and following site safety plans.
Sun exposure: Sun exposure can cause severe burns and increase risks of skin cancer. For workers exposed to the sun on job sites, it is important to wear proper sun-protective work clothing, hats and sunscreen, in addition to taking frequent breaks and drinking plenty of water.
Stay alert: Whether you’re in a kitchen or on a construction site, always stay alert of the people around you and the potential hazards for fires and burns. This includes being aware of overhead and underground utilities when performing jobs outdoors, electrical wiring and extension cords, standing water, hot items and open flames.
Unfortunately, workers can suffer burn injuries when working on sites with unreasonable hazards. If you or someone you love suffers harm in any type of workplace or construction accident, our award-winning attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., can evaluate your options for workers’ compensation or third-party personal injury lawsuits that can provide the compensation you need to cover medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
To speak with a lawyer, contact us.