National Burn Awareness Week is February 4-10
From silo fires to kitchen fires, burn hazards exist in every industry. Kitchen workers often suffer from open flame and grease burns. Automotive technicians commonly suffer chemical or thermal burns. Electricians are exposed to electrical burns on a routine basis. In honor of National Burn Awareness Week, we think it’s important to recognize the three main types of burns and know how to treat them. Regardless of industry, burns fall into three primarycategories.
Thermal Burns are caused by hot liquids (scalds), open flames, hot objects (metal pan handles, pipes, or other conductors), and explosions. The easiest way to protect workers from thermal burns is the mandatory use of personal protective equipment (heat-resistant gloves, aprons, etc.). Thermal burns are common. The damage they inflict, however, can vary greatly, ranging from surface skin layer to deep tissue.
Chemical Burns can damage the skin, the eyes, the nasal passages, and lung tissue. Inhalation, splashes, and spills are common causes of chemical burns. Chemical burns are caused by acids, alkaloids, and corrosives. Industrial cleaners, automotive fluids, and manufacturing solvents. Manufacturer labels should remain intact on all chemicals. Chemicals should be stored in approved containers and flammables should be stored in appropriate cabinets. Employees should be trained in Hazardous Communications.
Electrical Burns occur when persons come into contact with live current. Electrical burns occur as current courses through the body and can be immediately fatal. Damage can extend to internal organs, and heart attack is not uncommon with electrocution. High voltage areas should be secured to prevent general access. Only qualified personnel should work with electrical systems.
Elimination of a burn risk is obviously preferred, but not always practical. If the risk cannot be eliminated, administrative controls such as restricting access should be implemented, along with mandatory requirements for personal protective equipment. PPE may include flame-resistant or flame-retardant gloves, aprons, shoes, facial masks, or other gear. Portable fire extinguishers should be readily available, and appropriate for the exposure.
It’s also important to understand burn degrees:
1st degree burns are the least serious and damage only the epidermis, or outer layer, of skin. These burns typically do not require emergency medical treatment. You can run cool water over a first degree burn to cool the injury and alleviate pain. Cover the burned area with a sterile bandage or cloth, but do not use ointment. Seek medical treatment if the burn exhibits any signs of infection or you have any concerns about the extent of the injury.
2nd degree burns inflict damage beyond the epidermis and typically blister. These burns may or may not require emergency medical care, depending on the extent of the injury and its placement on the body. Remove all clothing from the affected area and cool the burn with water. Ice is not recommended. Cover the burn with a sterile bandage. Take precautions to prevent shock, as appropriate, and seek medical attention.
3rd degree burns damage all layers of the skin tissue, inflict nerve damage, and can be fatal. These burns often have a black, white, or leather-like appearance. Medical care is critical. Skin grafting is common. Call 911 immediately in the event of a 3rd degree burn, and follow instructions of emergency personnel.
There is also a 4th degree burn which penetrates to the bone and is essentially non-survivable.
In the case of burn injuries, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure.