Awareness for Burn Injuries in the Workplace
Across the country, businesses rely on high-risk equipment to operate and provide services. This equipment can cause severe burns to employees, which is why safety and prevention are key. Provided by the American Burn Association, the focus of this year’s National Burn Awareness Week is contact burns. Between February 2-8, 2020, the goal is to educate about this specific type of burn and learn how to help prevent it, while also drawing attention to the importance of understanding the various burn types, safety tips and the importance of a response plan. Read on to learn about types of burns, fire and burn prevention tips, and how to respond if a burn hazard injury occurs in your workplace.
Dangers of Burn Hazards
Throughout the nation, an estimated 486,000 burn injuries occur. Of these, approximately 40,000 people were hospitalized due to burns.
Equipment manufacturer have a duty to warn, a responsibility to adequately warn about hazards related to their products or machinery. Burn, electrical and arc flash-related hazards have long been a top concern. Statistics show that nearly 2,000 people every year are hospitalized with moderate to severe arc flash injuries; burns from an arc flash can cause everything from relatively minor injuries to blindness, hearing loss, nerve damage and even death.
Similarly, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure procedures, equipment and warnings are in compliance with safety regulations. In 2019, a restaurant in Texas was found to be in violation of OSHA regulations when an employee suffered severe burns from falling into a bath of hot water. The company was cited for failing to ensure proper protective gear was provided to employees, for not ensuring equipment was safe to use and for not having an area to wash off dangerous chemicals after contact.
Types of Burns
Contact burns are the focus of this year’s awareness week, but there is more than one type of burn that can occur. As such, burn awareness begins with understanding the different types, including:
- Chemical burns: Caustic and corrosive materials and solutions can burn the skin and cause chemical burns.
- Cold burns: Exposing the skin to ice or extremely cold objects can result in an ice or cold burn. This is also called frostbite.
- Contact burns: Touching a hot object causes this type of burn. This could be touching a hot piece of machinery or a burning pipe.
- Electrical burns: These burns are caused by shocks from high-voltage equipment and can be a very real danger to your employees.
- Friction burns: This occurs when an object rubs against your skin and removes some of the skin. The resulting injury looks like a cross between a heat burn and a scrape.
- Scald burns: Heat is the source of these burns, also known as thermal burns. These can occur from contact with hot substances, such as liquids, fire and explosives.
- Sun exposure burns: Commonly called sunburns, this occurs when sunlight burns the skin from exposure outdoors.
Degrees of Burns
If someone is burned, the burn injury falls into a classification, which helps medical professionals know how to identify and treat the injury. There are four main classifications of burns, called burn degrees:
- First-degree burns: This degree burns the outermost layer of skin and is generally red. These hurt, but there are no blisters.
- Second-degree burns: With this degree, the outer layer and the dermis are burned. The skin will turn red and it may appear swollen and shiny with blisters on the burned area. Depending on how deep the burn is, there may be scarring.
- Third-degree burns: Two layers of skin are completely burned in this classification of burn injury. Nerves are damaged, which means you do not feel pain. This burn also looks different, as it turns the skin white, yellow, brown or black rather than red.
- Fourth-degree burns: These are often forgotten about, but they are the most severe and may be life-threatening. Not only are the layers of skin damaged, but so are the muscles, tendons and bones beneath the burn.
Causes of Burns
Burns are not caused by one single source. Here are a few common causes that lead to the burns detailed above:
- Harsh cleaning chemicals
- Hot objects and liquids
- Fires and explosives
- Rubbing against objects
- Contact with ice
- The sun
Tips for Preventing Burns
The safety of employees and equipment users comes first. Take the time to take precautions and preventative measures before an issue arises.
Important burn prevention tips include conducting thorough risk assessments on products to understand potential dangers and mitigate risks, practicing good housekeeping in your facility especially related to flammable and combustible materials and the quality of burn-related PPE, observing all electrical codes, and establishing thorough safety procedures and training employees regularly on them, such as lockout/tagout safety programs.
It's also important to have burn hazard safety labels and safety signs and tags in place on your equipment or products and posted in your workplace to warn employees about the dangers that may be present from fires and burns, and the steps to take if an incident occurs. This can include warnings about hot surfaces, arc flash hazards or proper PPE to wear to avoid injury, notifications of your company’s safety procedures, as well as fire safety signs.
How to Respond to Burn Injury in the Workplace
First aid for the various types and degrees of burns can be different, which is why you should have mandatory first aid training. Also, make sure your employees know to immediately call for emergency services if an incident occurs and have the numbers clearly positioned throughout your work site.
Prepare Your Products and Workplace for Burn Safety
Contact and other burns can put employees in danger. Use this year’s National Burn Awareness Week to review your workplace policies and product warnings. Reach out to our team to learn more about how our range of products can help you to communicate about burn hazards on your equipment and in your workplace.
This blog was originally posted in January 2019 and updated with new information.