Thousands of Americans suffer from burn injuries every year, with roughly eight percent of those people sustaining their burns in a workplace accident. In fact, there are over 5,000 burn-related injury cases due to fires and explosions at job sites. According to the American Burn Association, the survival rate from burns is 96.8 percent. While most people recover from burns without any serious long-term health consequences, serious burns can leave people scarred for life. Anyone who has ever had a severe sunburn, however, can attest to the fact that even minor burns can be agonizing. A burn injury can cause substantial economic and social problems for workers and their families. Most Georgia workers who sustain burns while on the job qualify for workers’ compensation and should speak to a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to find out more about how to file a claim.
Types of Burn Injuries in the WorkplaceAlthough we may immediately think of open fires or the scorching sun, burns can be sustained in a variety of ways. In the workplace, the most common types are thermal, electrical, and chemical burns. Workers in manufacturing or industrial jobs often come into daily contact with machines and hazardous materials that could cause burns. Common burns are characterized by the following:
- Thermal burns – Any burn that is caused by exposure to flames, steam, flash, hot surfaces or hot liquids (scalds) over 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Contact burns from hot surfaces can be particularly deep.
- Electrical burns – Since electricity follows the path of least resistance, it is not unlikely for a worker to be injured as either AC or DC current travels through their body tissues. Both external and internal burns may result from electricity, which are technically thermal burns at extremely high temperatures.
- Chemical burns – Usually caused by strong acids or alkali substances, chemical burns can cause damage to the skin with or without heat production. What makes chemical burns more severe is that they continue to cause damage until the chemical is completely flushed away or inactivated.
- Radiological burns – Caused by exposure to alpha, beta, or gamma radiation, these types of burns are not as common. However, when they do happen, usually they will need some sort of decontamination to stop the injury from getting worse.
Understanding Burn SeverityBurns are typically classified into three levels of severity–first, second, and third degree burns–with third degree burns being the worst. Although it is possible to sustain burns worse than third degree, it is very unusual for anyone to survive them.
- First Degree Burns – These burns are strictly superficial, meaning they only affect the outermost layer of skin, the prime example being a sever sunburn. First degree burns are painful and symptoms include redness, minor inflammation/swelling, and dry, peeling skin as the burn begins to heal. Using antibiotic ointment and pain relievers as home care, first degree burns will usually heal in seven to 10 days.
- Second Degree Burns – If a burn reaches beyond the top layer of skin, making it no longer simply superficial, it has become at least a second degree burn. These type of burns may cause blistering in the skin and are either red and wet or white and dry depending on the degree of vascular injury. It’s extremely important to keep burns clean and bandaged properly, especially if blisters begin to pop as there is a high risk of infection. Although they sometimes take more than three weeks to heal, typically second degree burns will clear up after a week or two without any scarring.
- Third Degree Burns – Third degree burns extend through all the layers of the skin, destroying both the outside skin and the tissues below. Aside from higher level fourth degree burns, these are the most severe. It might seem counterintuitive, but third degree burns are actually not painful because at this point the nerves have been damaged. Third degree burns will not blister, but rather look waxy and white or dark brown in color and have raised/leathery texture or charring. These burns should never be attempt to be treated at home and it’s imperative a medical professional handles it. Even with surgery and skin grafts, third degree burns can leave scarring.