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Workplace burns: Know what to do if you're burned at work

In your workplace, you may not think that there are many situations in which you'd get burned, but the truth is that burns can happen anywhere and to anyone. That's why burn prevention is such an important topic to teach to employees and to review at all levels of management.

  • To start with, you need to know that there are many different kinds of burns. A few common kinds include:
  • Electrical, which is caused by electrocution
  • Thermal, which is caused by heat from liquids
  • Open flames
  • Explosions or hot objects
  • Chemical burns, which are caused by coming into contact with strong alkaloids, acids, caustic or corrosive materials

Sun exposure can also lead to burns.

How serious are burns?

The severity of a burn should be determined based on a few things. Burns are categorized as first-, second-, third- and fourth-degree burns.

First degree burns cause minimal damage. They're superficial and affect only the top layer of the skin. Mild sunburns are a good example of first-degree burns.

Second-degree burns affect more layers of skin and may result in blistering or sores. If you spill a hot cup of water on yourself, you might scald your skin and blister as a result of a second-degree burn.

Third-degree burns destroy the dermis and epidermis. The tissues can become charred or white and may have no feeling.

Fourth-degree burns are sometimes classed with third-degree burns as full-thickness injuries. There is a potential for damage to the tendons, muscles and bones. Skin grafts might be necessary to help the area heal, or an amputation might be required if an injury is particularly damaging to a limb or extremity.

Who's responsibility is it to avoid burns in the workplace?

Everyone plays a role in workplace safety, but when it comes down to it, it is your employer's responsibility to create a safe work environment for their employees. Employers can help provide a safe workplace that limits exposure to burn risks by:

  • Providing appropriate training to explain the hazards that workers may be exposed to
  • Offering refresher training to regularly update training
  • Provide good hazard communication with color coding, labels, signs and posters

What should you do if you suffer a burn on the job?

The first thing to do is to call 911 and alert the emergency medical team. While they're on the way, it's a smart idea to cool the wound if you can, so that the person who was hurt can be as comfortable as possible until they arrive.

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