Burn Injuries in the Workplace and how to treat them

No matter how effective our preventive measures may seem to be, accidents are bound to happen at the workplace. One of the most common types of accidents that occur in the workplace are burns, especially in chemical industries. Both electrical and chemical equipment can be sources of burn injuries in the workplace.

Burns tend to damage the skin due to the high temperatures. Anyone dealing with a burn victim is required to be extra careful to avoid inflicting further pain on the victim. When the burns aren’t severe, they can easily be treated with simple first aid. However, some burns may be too severe and even life- threatening which will require immediate medical attention as well as on the spot first aid.

All employees need to have sufficient knowledge on how to treat minor burns in the workplace and how to care for life-threatening burns until the time a medical expert will arrive and take over. They should be able to identify the difference between a minor and fatal burn.

When discussing the burn hazards in the workplace, is important to stress to the staff that burns can be avoided if everyone is aware of all the potential burn hazards and follow the safety protocols. This article outlines the different types of burns that one can sustain at the workplace and how they can be treated.

Identifying the Severity of a Burn

The fatality of a burn depends on how many layers of the skin it affects. The minor burns only affect the outer layer of the skin. Although the burns may be uncomfortable, they don’t pose a major health risk. However, deeper burns tend to destroy multiple layers of the skin. They pose a significant health hazard and will need immediate medical attention.

Based on their severity, burns can be classified into three broad categories

First degree burns. The first-degree burns are superficial and painful. They are usually red, dry, and blanch with a lot of pressure. They aren’t so severe and can be mitigated through simple first aid.

Second-degree burns. As opposed to the first degree burns, the second-degree burns usually range from superficial partial-thickness burns with painful blisters to deep partial thickness burns. Sometimes, the

second-degree burns may be red and wet or white and very dry depending on the extent of the vascular injury.

Third-degree burns. They are the most severe and may be life-threatening if immediate action isn’t taken. Third-degree burns are full-thickness burns that will require the skin grafts to heal. The thickness indicates the destruction of the skin and the tissue beneath it.

The Common Types of Burns at the Workplace

The three most common types of burns that occur at the workplace are Electrical, Chemical, and Thermal burns. Each type of a burn has its own characteristics and ways of treating it. Below are some of the characteristics of these common types of workplace burns.

Electrical Burns. This kind of burn occurs when an electrical current traveling through your body meets resistance in the body tissues. This resistance will result in heat burn injuries.

Chemical Burns. The chemical burns at the workplace are usually caused by substances that produce a chemical change in the composition of the skin with or without heat production. Unless the chemical reaction completes or is flushed out of the skin, a chemical burn will continue to damage your skin.

Thermal Burns. They are the most common type of burns. They are as a result of exposure to or contact with flames, hot surfaces, hot fluids, steam, or flush. Thermal burns can easily cause third-degree burns that are life-threatening.

How to Treat the Different Types of Burn Injuries in the Workplace

Minimising the exposure of a burn victim to the source of the burn is always the first step in treating any burn. This lessens the potential for severe burns. Once the victim has been transferred to a safe place, determine the severity of the burn before making any attempt of treating the person. Based on the type of burn the person was exposed to, follow the guidelines outlined below to treat the various types of burns.

Thermal Burns

Move the person far away from the source of heat to stop the burning. In case his/her clothes are in flames or smouldering, quickly roll the person in a blanket to smother the flame. Alternatively, spray the person with large quantities of clean water from the nearest source.

For a first degree burn, consider immersing the whole body of the victim in cold water. Provide the fire victim

with some pain relievers and drinking water. Apply a burn cream or aloe vera on the areas that have sustained burns. To reduce swelling, elevate the body parts that have sustained burns.

For a second-degree burn, you should follow the steps for a first-degree burn detailed above but avoid applying cold water on the affected areas.

For a third degree burn, simply cover the affected areas with a dry, sterile, non-stick dressing and call for emergency medical assistance immediately. You should also lay the victim down and elevate the severely burnt areas to avoid further swelling. If necessary, cut away the clothing but don’t try to remove any clothing that may be stuck in a burn. Don’t perform any further first aid on the victim.

Electrical Burns

The first step in treating an electrical burn is making the scene safe through turning off the power source.

Don’t make a mistake of approaching the victim when the source of power is still on since you risk being a victim too.

Check the airway, breathing, and circulation. Treat for shock before seeking further medical attention.

Chemical Burns

Start by getting off the contaminated clothing

Make sure that you get rid of any loose powder and spray the burnt area with cold water for at least 20 minutes.

If the eye is the affected area, spray it with clean, clear water from any low-pressure source. The eye should be kept open during the flushing.

When the area becomes less painful, cover it with a dry, sterile, non-stick dressing and seek further medical attention immediately.

TutorCare offer courses on a wide variety of First Aid real life situations.
Subjects such as how to treat burn injuries in the workplace are covered in our First Aid at Work Training (HSE) and Emergency First Aid at Work Training Courses.  A Course is are also available for those that work with children through our Paediatric First Aid training course.

All programmes can be arranged online, in one of our training centres or where required at your premises.  For more information on all our courses please visit TutorCare Training Provider.

Further Reading:

WHO – Burns Statistics worldwide

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