Of all the burns that occur each year in the United States, nearly 500,000 require medical treatment.
Simply put, a burn is damage to one or more layers of skin. When burn injuries are severe, pain can be accompanied by scars and disfigurement. This can be especially true if burns occur in the workplace. Work-related burns tend require medical treatment since there are typically more potential sources of burns in work environments, such as:
- Electrical wiring
- Strong chemicals
Types of Burn Injuries
Burns are classified based on the type of damage that’s done to the skin. First-degree burns are mild and only affect the outermost layer of skin (the epidermis). Second-degree burns affect both the top and lower layer of skin (dermis). If deeper layers of tissue are affected, it’s classified as a third-degree burn. Symptoms associated with burns may include:
- Swelling and redness
- Severe pain
- Lack of sensation
- Charred skin
Causes of Work-Related Burn Injuries
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has standards in place designed to minimize burn risks in the workplace. Even so, there are times when proper precautions may not be taken, or safety guidelines may be overlooked or ignored entirely. Fires are a common cause of work-related burn injuries, but not the only potential source of burns. In some work environments, thermal burns may occur from occur from exposure to steam, electricity, radiation, or chemicals. Workers in certain occupations tend to be at an increased risk of experiencing a burn. For instance, OSHA reports more instances of burns among younger restaurant workers and kitchen workers from exposure to hot oil, hot food, grease, and steam. An employer may be held liability for such injuries if the confirmed cause involves:
- Defective or damaged products used for work-related purposes
- Negligence on the part of a co-worker, supervisor, or boss
- Lack of proper training that contributed to the burn injury
Treatment and Care
Treatment for a burn injury will depend on the type of burn, which areas are affected, and the extent of tissue damage. Some burns may be treated with topical ointments and antibiotics delivered orally or intravenously to be prevent infection. More serious work-related burn injuries may require skin grafting with either skin from another part of the body or synthetic skin. Oftentimes, the most difficult part of treatment for severe burns is pain management. For some patients, this means aggressive treatment with various medications and therapeutic techniques. If disfigurement is involved, plastic surgery may be recommended to restore appearance.
Third degree burns, in particular, can involve many years of treatment and rehabilitation. It’s burns of this nature that can also make it difficult or impossible to return to work. Personal quality of life can be equally impacted. If you experienced burn-related injuries at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. An attorney can help you determine next steps to take.