18 May Burns in the Workplace
Burns are a global public health problem, accounting for an estimated 265,000 deaths annually. In the United States, burn injuries are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. The majority of these burns occur in the home, but burns in the workplace account for a major proportion of all burns. Statistics from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) show that more than 5,000 burn injuries occur in the United States annually as a result of work-related fires and explosions. Burns in the workplace are a major social and economic threat to individuals, families, and the community as a whole.
The four types of workplace burns are as follows:
Thermal burns – these burns are called “scalding burns,” caused by the heat from liquids, hot objects, open flames, and explosions. The immediate objective with thermal burns is to contain and stop the burning process. Thermal burns can be prevented by wearing personal protective equipment, by having established emergency procedures in place related to fire detection and protection, and by using fire prevention tactics.
Chemical burns – Chemical burns occur when eyes or skin come into contact with any caustic materials that destroy or “burn” skin and deeper tissue. They commonly occur in the workplace following exposure to industrial cleansers, for chemicals used in laboratories or in the manufacturing process. Ensuring that all workers are well-trained, and receive ongoing training in Hazard Communication is the best way to prevent chemical burns. Workers must be able to assimilate, read, and understand, all symbols and labels that identify chemical risk.
Electrical Burns – Electrical burns emanate from electrical sources, high-voltage areas, and machinery. In these kinds of burns, current travels through the body and meets resistance in tissue, resulting in heat burn injuries. Identifying live wires, avoiding contact with water while working with electricity, and wearing personal protective equipment, are all ways to prevent burns by electricity.
Sun Exposure Burns – Technically, these could be categorized as a thermal burn. Employees who work outside in the sun should be educated in sun safety practices that keep them safe. If feasible, hours worked outside during peak sun hours should be reduced, and extensive sun protective clothing should be worn at all times.
All of these kinds of workplace burns vary in severity. First degree burns affect the top layer of the skin called the epidermis. The burn area is painful, red, dry and without blister. These burns are considered superficial. One example of a first degree burn is a mild sunburn. Second degree burns go beneath the epidermis. Here the skin may be become very red and sore, and may blister. Third degree burns destroy both the top and second layer of skin, as well as tissue underneath. The most serious of all these burns are fourth degree burns where all layers of skin are affected, along with damage of underlying muscle, tendons and bones.
Under the OSHA law, which establishes and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. If violations of industry standards and/or company safety plans do not maintain the safety of a worker, the employer could be at risk. This could lead to legal action by the injured person.
It is vital for the injured person to know that civil law exists to compensate an individual for injuries and losses which were caused by some other form of misconduct or failure to act. Persons who are injured in accidents and their families are often reluctant to contact an attorney because they believe the accident or injury was caused by the injured individual in some way. This may not be the case. Even if the injured individual is partially at fault, it is still possible that more than one person or entity may have contributed to the cause of the accident or injury and a substantial monetary recovery is still possible.
Burn survivors may endure unimaginable physical and emotional trauma with long-term consequences. Anyone who has sustained a serious burn injury should consult with an attorney experienced in this area of the law as soon as possible to determine whether a Personal Injury claim should be pursued. It is up to you, the burn survivor, to pursue your legal rights by choosing an attorney with all the qualifications, expertise, and a winning track record on behalf of burn survivors and their families.
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