Burn Safety

Originally published 02/14/2018

Burns in the workplace occur more often than you may think. Thermal, chemical, and electrical burns are common types of burns associated with workplace tasks.

Burns are characterized into three classifications:

  • First-Degree Burns – Minimal tissue damage involving the (epidermis) skin layer.
  • Second-Degree Burns – Burns that produce severe pain and swelling to the (dermis) skin layer.
  • Third-Degree Burns – Most serious of all burns, involving the (hypodermis) skin layer causing permanent damage. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Preventing exposure to burn hazards such as fires is key to preventing burn injuries. The following are ways to help prevent fires from occurring in the workplace:

  • Good housekeeping. Loose debris is a potential place for a fire to begin.
  • Inspect all fire extinguishers monthly. Ensure each extinguisher is fully charged and the safety pin is intact.
  • Ensure that fire extinguishers are maintained near propane and compressed gases.
  • Keep all flammable and combustible materials in a designated location and stored in appropriate containers. Store all chemicals accordingly to manufacturer guidelines.
  • Be aware of which appropriate personal protective equipment is required.
  • Only first-aid trained employees should assist in treating in a burn illness. Ensure there is a stocked first-aid kit, including a blood-borne pathogen kit and eye wash solution available.

Treating Thermal Burns (caused by flame, steam, hot liquid, or hot surface):

  • Use low pressure water and provide first aid.
  • Treat or prevent shock.
  • Keep the victim warm with blankets until help arrives.

Treating Chemical Burns (caused by hazardous materials):

  • Use cool, running water to completely flush chemicals off your body. Do not use ice or hot water. If the chemical is a powder, attempt to remove it from the skin before flushing it with water.
  • Be sure to remove any jewelry or clothing that has been in contact with the chemical.
  • If a burning sensation continues after washing the area with cool water, flush the area for another several minutes.
  • Loosely wrap the burned area with a clean cloth or a dry, sterile gauze bandage. Do not apply ointments.

Treating Electrical Burns (caused by currents of electricity):

  • Turn off the current to the electricity and pull the victim away from the accident area.
  • Use low pressure water to extinguish any clothes on fire and provide first aid.
  • All electrical burns should be evaluated by a physician.
  • Even though the burn may appear to be minor, damage may have occurred deep into the underlying tissues.
  • Electrical burns can sometimes result in an irregular heartbeat.

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