Burn injuries are common both at home and in the workplace. The American Burn Association states that there are over 40,000 hospitalizations each year due to burns.
Types of Burns:
Thermal – Thermal burns are what most people think of first when burns are mentioned. These burns occur due to contact with a hot surface, fire, hot liquids, or an explosion. Sunburn could be considered a separate type of burn, but we will consider it a thermal burn as well.
Chemical – Chemical burns result from skin or eye contact with a strong acid, corrosive, caustic, or alkaloid. Many of the chemicals used in different processes at many jobsites can result in a chemical burn injury. Some common household products can also produce severe chemical burn if not handled correctly.
Electrical burns – Electrical burns occur where an electrical current has passed through the body. When the current travels through the body the tissue gives it resistance that results in burns. These burns can be both inside and outside of the body. Usually where the burns are on the outside of the body will tell where the electrical current entered and exited the body.
Sun Exposure Burns – While these could technically be considered a thermal burn, sun exposure burns are worthy of special consideration.
Thermal – The best way to reduce your chances of suffering from a thermal burn is to eliminate the source of the heat if possible. If there pipes or other objects that heat up to dangerous temperatures, then it is important to place guards or barriers on them to protect individuals from being burned. The last line of defense would be to use proper PPE that will protect you from being burned from a hot object or material.
Chemical – Eliminate the use of dangerous chemicals whenever possible. Substitute for a chemical that burns the skin quickly with one that does not burn as easily. Block areas or processes that have the chance to expose individuals to hazardous chemicals. Have emergency showers or eye wash stations available for immediate use if exposed to a chemical.
Electrical – Safe work practices are needed to work around electricity. Locate and stay away from both underground and overhead powerlines. Inspect all tools for defects in insulation as well as missing ground prongs. Properly repair or discard any compromised cords. Do not operate electrical tools in moist or wet environments. Always properly lock and tag out equipment before performing work on them. Try to turn equipment on to ensure no power is still being given to it. The last line of defense is to wear PPE that protects you from electrical current.
Sun Exposure Burns – Employees who work under the sun should be well versed in the sun safety practices that will keep them safe and should take precaution to reduce hours under harsh direct sun, seek shade if possible, and wear sun-protective work clothing, hats, and sunscreen to reduce the risk of burns from sun exposure.
It’s important that employers and workers be aware of these common burn types and make the effort to identify, control, and avoid/reduce potential burn hazards in the workplace. Important preventative measures include:
- Keeping the workplace clean and free of debris;
- Making sure workplace fire extinguishers are properly maintained and in working order;
- Storing combustible and flammable items properly and keeping them away from ignition sources;
- Wearing the proper personal protective equipment for the hazard;
- Being extra cautious around chemicals and any hot liquids, materials, or surfaces;
- Reading the labels and Material Safety Data Sheets for chemicals in the workplace;
- Having emergency plans in place; and
- Following Lock-Out / Tag-Out procedures when working with electricity.
Because workplace burns are so common, employers and workers must actively try to lessen the risks. Awareness, implementation of controls, and protective measures can be very effective in reducing burn hazards.
STAY ALERT…DON’T GET HURT!!
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