February 3-7 is National Burn Awareness Week. Burn injuries continue to be one of the leading causes of accidental death and injury in the United States. Although most burn injuries occur in the home, about 10% do happen at the workplace. Awareness and hazard prevention can dramatically reduce the risk of all types of burns.
See the FREAS SharePoint page under Safety for more information on this topic and a list of recently issued safety messages.
First-degree burns cause minimal skin damage and are considered superficial since they affect the top layer of the skin. A mild sunburn is an example of this type of burn, where the burn site is red, painful, dry and without blister.
The damage from a second-degree burn extends beyond the top layer of the skin and can often cause the skin to blister or become extremely red and sore.
Third-degree burns destroy both the epidermis and the dermis, and they can also go as deep as to destroy tissue underneath. These burns can appear white or charred.
In a fourth-degree burn, all skin layers are affected, and there is also potential for damage to muscle, tendons and bone. Skin grafts do not work on these severe burns, so much so that fourth-degree burns may require amputation if injury occurs in a limb or extremity.
Types of Burns:
Thermal Burns — Thermal burns are burns caused by the heat from liquids (called “scalding” burns), open flames, hot objects and explosions. The most important priority with thermal burns is controlling and stopping the burning process. Thermal burns can be prevented by wearing proper PPE.
Chemical Burns — Chemical burns are the result of skin or eyes coming into contact with strong acids, alkaloids or other corrosive or caustic materials that eat away or “burn” skin and deeper tissue. In the workplace, these accidents can occur after exposure to industrial cleaners (such as rust removers or drain cleaners), chemicals in laboratories or manufacturing workplaces. One of the best ways to prevent chemical burns is to make sure all workers are well-versed in Hazard Communication, which covers the symbols and labels that will communicate chemical risk.
Electrical Burns — Current travels through body and meets resistance in tissue, resulting in heat burn injuries. To avoid burns from electrical sources, high-voltage areas and machinery should be clearly marked. Workers should also make sure to identify live wires, avoid contact with water while working with electricity, and wear the required PPE, including arc flash clothing, to avoid burns by electricity.
Sun Exposure Burns — While these could technically be considered a thermal burn, sun exposure burns are worthy of special consideration. 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.