Work-related burns are responsible for up to 25% of all burns requiring medical attention in the United States. Burns can occur in any type of job, but the most commonly reported occupations are kitchen workers, welders, laboratory employees, and construction workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that approximately 200 fatalities and over 5,000 injuries occur annually as a result of workplace fires and explosions. The majority of these injuries involve thermal burns, however, chemical and electrical burns can be equally dangerous. The effects to the integumentary system (skin) and respiratory system (lungs) can cause permanent and debilitating damage.
Thermal burns are the most common type of burn injury. Heat sources including fire, steam, hot liquids, hot objects, and hot metals can cause injuries ranging from superficial skin damage to fourth degree burns that expose muscle and bone.
- It is a common misconception that burns cause most fire-related fatalities. In fact, 50% to 80% of fatalities are caused by smoke inhalation. When a victim inhales the components of combustion, oxygen is depleted, potentially resulting in asphyxiation. Essentially, the victim is choking while the elements of combustion burn the trachea and lungs. Smoke inhalation symptoms may be delayed, so victims should be monitored carefully.
- Wet heat (such as steam), hot food, and hot liquids can burn through skin and connective tissue faster than dry heat. This may result in scalding.
Hot water heaters, defective machinery, grease burns, exposed pipes, and industrial ovens and stoves are examples of workplace heat sources that can cause thermal burns.
Though not as common as thermal and electrical burns, the invasive, caustic nature of chemical burns is often more severe. When certain chemicals come into contact with the skin and are not removed immediately, they may continue to burn through the integumentary layers and become systemic. The chemicals can essentially “invade” the bloodstream and attack major organs. Unlike thermal burns, chemical burns are not always immediately evident. The potential for delayed symptoms can contribute to the severity of this type of burn.
Acids and alkaloids are two examples of toxic chemicals. These and others are common in industries such as agriculture, automotive, and the medical field. Other workplace chemical toxins include:
- Tar, gasoline and other industrial products
- Products containing lye
- Products containing sulfuric acid or sodium hypochlorite
- Explosions and spills
When a worker comes into contact with an electrical current, it can pass through his or her body causing an electrical burn. Injuries can be either external, internal, or both. The intensity of the current and the length of exposure are determining factors in the severity of the burn.
- Low Voltage – When an electrical current is under 500 volts, it is considered low voltage. While this is likely to cause only mild burns, serious complications can include cardiac problems, muscle spasms, or oral burns.
- High Voltage – A current is considered high voltage when it is above 1,000 volts. Burns from high voltage currents are extremely serious and can result in cardiac arrest, severe skin burns, seizures, coma, permanent brain damage, and death.
Workplace electrical burn hazards can be caused by electrical machinery, stripped or faulty wiring, and high voltage power sources and power lines. Our experienced Massachusetts workers compensation lawyers have handled all types of work burn injuries. The severity and and scope of every burn accident if often different, our experienced attorneys can help you every step of the way assisting with lost wages, permanent impairment, scarring, potential third party actions and any other issues that may arise in your case.
Altman & Altman, LLP – Boston’s Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Employers have a responsibility to provide adequate training for their workers. It is also an employer’s duty to safely maintain all machinery and equipment to the best of their ability. If you have experienced a work-related burn injury, it is in your best interest to contact a seasoned Boston workers’ compensation attorney immediately. At Altman & Altman LLP, our experienced legal team has been fighting for the rights of Boston’s workforce for nearly 50 years. We will review the details of your case to determine the best strategy for moving forward. Contact us for a free consultation about your case.