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What Should I Know About Workplace Burn Injuries?

workplace burn injuries

Serious burn injuries can happen anywhere, including workplaces. Many burn victims are treated in emergency departments every year in the United States. A burn injury occurs when an outer force, such as heat, steam, chemicals, or radiation, damages the skin or underlying tissues, bones, and organs.

Certain employees are at a higher risk for burn injuries, so extra care should be taken by companies and their workers to avoid getting hurt. Firefighters make the top of the list, but other hazardous jobs include construction, health care, electricians, mechanics, janitors, and food prep workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) claims that chemical burns cause employees to miss an average of three days of work, while heat burns cause five days of lost work.

What Causes Workplace Burn Injuries?

Heat is not the only cause of workplace burns. According to the American Burn Association (ABA), approximately 44 percent of burns are caused by fire and flame exposure, but they are also caused by hot objects, hot liquids, and steam. Other sources for workplace burns include electrical sources, such as wires. Chemical burns from gas, liquids, and solid industrial and household compounds also contribute to workplace burn injuries. Friction burns occur when the skin violently contacts hard surfaces, roads, or carpeting. Cold temperatures can also burn the skin, which is known as frostbite. Burns can also occur when the skin is exposed to severely cold weather or ice. Employees who work with X-ray machines, ultraviolet (UV) lights, or sun lamps can suffer from burns as well.

What are the Different Types of Burn Degrees?

There are three degrees of burns, and third-degree burns are the most severe. After someone suffers a burn, any clothing or jewelry on the burned skin or surrounding area should be removed unless it is burnt on or attached to the skin. The skin will likely swell after a burn, so these items should be taken off as long as it is not dangerous to do so.

A first-degree burn affects the skin’s first layer, and symptoms include redness and pain. They can be treated by dunking the body part into fresh, cool water until the pain stops; cool, wet compresses can also be used. The burn may then be covered with sterile gauze or a bandage. If a large portion of the victim’s face, hands, feet, or other body part is affected, the victim should seek emergency medical attention.

Second-degree burns affect the first and second skin layers, and they could be considered superficial or deep. Symptoms can include severe pain; red, white, and blotchy skin; and blisters. These are treated similar to first-degree burns, but it is wise to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Third-degree burns damage all of the skin’s layers, as well as the tissues underneath. They can appear white, black, or brown with a leathery appearance. These dangerous burns can destroy nerves and lead to other life-changing injuries. After calling 911, the burned area should be gently covered with a cool, moist towel or bandage. The burned area can be elevated higher than the person’s head. If they are in shock, they should lie down flat and be covered with a blanket. If possible, the victim’s feet should be elevated approximately 12 inches.

What are the Dangers Associated with Chemical and Electrical Burns?

Chemical burns can be minor, moderate, or serious, and they are treated similar to other burns, depending on the symptoms. There are some special considerations for chemical burns, though. If there is dry chemical residue on the burn area, the skin should be rinsed with cool water for 10 to 20 minutes.

Electrical burns can present differently and may not show up on the skin; the damage can be extensive under the skin. Additionally, electrocutions can knock people down. If the victim was working at great heights, the additional injuries from the fall could be life-threatening. Additional complications could include cardiac arrest and heart rhythm disturbance. An electrical burn victim should be removed from the electricity source immediately, which should also be shut off right away.

When Should Emergency Services be Called?

Severe burn victims may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they are not moving, coughing, or breathing. If the burns look bad enough or have affected the person’s eyes, face, groin, buttocks, a major joint, hands, or feet, 911 should be called. Some burns affect the respiratory system, so if the victim is having trouble breathing, this is another indication of serious distress. When the skin looks blotchy, white, brown, or black, emergency services should always be contacted. As a precaution, the Mayo Clinic recommends calling poison control for chemical burns. They will be able to advise the caller about the chemical’s toxicity.

Burn victims should be vigilant about checking their symptoms after initial treatment. Symptoms to watch out for include large blisters or burns that do not heal after two weeks, significant scars, and new symptoms that appear. Increased pain, swelling, redness, or oozing wounds could all be signs of infection and should be treated as soon as possible.

Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Burn Injuries?

The Workers’ Compensation insurance provider will need to know if it happened at work and whether or not the victim was working when it happened. If both of these are true, the employee will be covered. Serious burns can result in significant time off from work, high medical expenses, and long-term pain and suffering. An injured employee can file a Workers’ Compensation claim with their employer to help pay for lost wages and medical costs.

Should I File a Personal Injury Suit?

Employees cannot sue employers for workplace injuries. Workers’ Compensation provides for injured employees’ medical costs and lost wages. A personal injury suit may be warranted when negligence was involved from a third party, such as a project management company or a vendor. A personal injury claim may be filed if a defective product, tool, or piece of machinery caused the workplace accident. In a personal injury suit, the plaintiff must prove the following:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to ensure care.
  • The defendant breached the duty of care.
  • The breach caused the workplace injury.
  • The work injury caused the losses.

In some cases, injured employees who win these types of suits may have to pay back part of the damages to their employers and their insurance companies. Sometimes, this is done in order to return some of the money that was paid out to the employee through Workers’ Compensation. In some cases, employers and their insurance companies will instead join in lawsuits to get back their money from the third party.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Secure Damages for Injured Employees

If you have a serious workplace burn injury, a dedicated Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can assist you with your claim. For a free consultation, call us at 302-888-1221 or complete our online form. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Dover, Newark, and Middletown.