Among the many injuries that workers can receive on the job, burns are among the most painful. Depending on the severity of the burn, a victim may be facing months of recovery and/or permanent damage. A burn injury at the workplace carries both short and long term effects for the victim and his or her family.
Burn injuries are categorized by degrees. A first-degree injury only affects the top layer of skin, while a second-degree burn injures underlying skin layers. Third-degree burns include damage that extends to all layers of skin, and fourth-degree injuries harm tissue way below the skin, including muscles and bones. The prognosis of a burn victim depends on many factors, with the prominent ones being the size and depth of the burn and age of the victim.
Burns can result from a number of hazards at work, including:
- Dangerous chemicals
- Electricity actually flowing through the body
- Flash burns due to electricity flowing near the body
- Thermal contact burns through overheated equipment or ignited clothing
- Heated mechanisms
- Hot oils or liquids
- Un-insulated tools
Fires can also cause smoke inhalation, leading to respiratory damage. For burn injuries, however, the victim can face a range of damage, from scarring to nerve damage. Electrical burns may cause muscle damage, while pneumonia can even occur in some victims.
Immediately after a burn occurs, the victim will need medical care. Cooling via water or ice can reduce the depth of the burn and the pain, but over-cooling can lead to hypothermia. For minor burns, pain relieving medications and bandages will usually suffice. For more extensive burns, additional treatment will be required.
Burn Injury Medical Treatments
- Amputation may be necessary for extreme burns
- Antibiotics or other treatment for infection
- Intravenous fluid, as fluid leakage occurs
- Massage or antihistamines can be used to help with itching sensations near the burn
- Skin grafts
Modern advancements in medicine have made surviving burn injuries much more likely, and treatment much more effective. Skin graft and flap procedures can repair many burn scars, to improve the quality of living for victims. Even though a burn victim may live longer, his or her quality of life will diminish significantly, as they will suffer permanent disfigurement and lifelong pain.