In recognition of National Burn Awareness Week (February 6-12, 2022), The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., is sharing educational information to help workers and employers prevent burn injuries on the job.
We also want to encourage our friends and followers to visit the American Burn Association’s website to learn more about NBAW and this year’s theme: Burning Issues in the Kitchen.
Burn Injuries in the Workplace
Burns in the workplace account for up to 45% of all burns. According to OSHA and the NCBI:
- Fires are a leading cause of burns and death in the workplace.
- Over 40,000 workers are injured each year by 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 work entirely.
Types of Burn Injuries
Burns are a type of wound caused by thermal, electrical, chemical, or electromagnetic energy.
- 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 touch the skin.
- Chemical burns occur when skin or eyes contact strong acids, alkalis, solvents, or detergents.
- Electrical burns are caused by contact with electrical current, including alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC).
- Radiation burns are caused by prolonged exposure to UV rays, such as those from the sun or x-rays.
Burns are also 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 skin (hypodermis). They nearly always cause blisters / 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
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. These workers 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 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 exits 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 attorneys at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., can evaluate your options for filing a workers’ compensation claim and /or third-party personal injury lawsuit Call (212) 577-9325 or contact us online for a free consultation.