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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First Aid Refresher – Part 3

Part 1 of this series covered what to do when you initially approach an injured person. Part 2 outlined things that you should never do when providing first aid, as well as the basic treatment for bleeding and shock. In this final section, we will continue our discussion of first aid basics for several common conditions.

Broken Bone

  • Immobilize the area.
  • Numb the pain. Often, this can be done with an ice pack covered by a towel.
  • Make a splint. A bundle of newspapers and sturdy tape could do the trick. You could also stabilize a broken finger by taping it to an unbroken finger.
  • Make a sling, if necessary. Tie a shirt or a pillowcase around a broken arm and then around the shoulder.


Choking can cause death or permanent brain damage within minutes. The following describes how to use the Heimlich maneuver to clear the airway of a choking victim:

  • From behind, wrap your arms around the victim’s waist.
  • Make a fist and place the thumb side of your fist against the victim’s upper abdomen, below the ribcage and above the navel.
  • Grasp your fist with your other hand and press into their upper abdomen with a quick upward thrust. Do not squeeze the ribcage. Confine the force of the thrust to your hands.
  • Repeat until object is expelled.


Treat first- and second-degree burns by immersing or flushing them with cool water. Don’t use ice, creams, butter or other ointments, and do not pop blisters. Cover third-degree burns with a damp cloth. Remove clothing and jewelry from the burn if possible, but do not try to remove charred clothing that is stuck to the burn.

Possible Concussion

If the victim has suffered a blow to the head, look for signs of concussion. Common symptoms of concussion include: loss of consciousness following the injury, disorientation or memory impairment, vertigo, nausea and lethargy. Keep the injured person lying down and still.

Spinal Injury

If you suspect a spinal injury, it is especially critical that you not move the victim’s head, neck or back unless he/she is in immediate danger. Keep the person still. If the victim needs CPR, do not tilt the head back to open the airway. Use your fingers to gently grasp the jaw and lift it forward.


Seizures can be scary. Luckily, helping people with seizures is relatively straightforward. Help the victim lie down to avoid injury, and let the seizure run its course. Following the seizure, check to see if the victim is breathing. If not, perform CPR at once. As soon as you can, write down any details that might help medical professionals diagnose the patient’s condition.

In all situations, use common sense, and call 911 as necessary.