It’s a regular day at work until suddenly, it’s not. Burns and scalds in the workplace are more common than we’d like to admit, turning ordinary moments into painful emergencies. From hot liquids spilling over to accidental touches on open flames or chemical exposures – these incidents can happen anywhere, anytime. The average ROI of preventing such accidents? Immeasurable when you consider the safety and well-being of employees.

Here’s a silver lining: most of these injuries, including burns and scalds in the workplace, are preventable with the right knowledge and precautions. Whether you’re an independent contractor or part of a large corporation, grasping how to manage this hazard is essential for fostering a safer work environment.

Table Of Contents:

Common Causes of Workplace Burns and Scalds

Every year for National Burn Awareness week, the American Burn Association brings attention to burn injuries that result in over 40,000 hospitalizations per year. While a very large majority of these burns actually occur in the home, workplace burns are a very preventable source of injury. Awareness, hazard prevention and protection can dramatically lessen the risk of burns in the workplace. Thermal burns are caused by contact with hot objects, liquids, or steam. Common sources include boiling water, hot cooking oil, hot equipment surfaces, and open flames. 

Restaurant workers are especially at risk, with the fast pace and close quarters making it all too easy to accidentally touch a scorching hot pan or get splashed by bubbling grease. But it’s not just kitchens where thermal burns lurk. Factory workers may come into contact with molten metal or overheated machinery. Construction crews using welding torches or tar kettles face similar hazards. Even office workers are at risk from simple things like hot coffee spills or a malfunctioning break room microwave.

Chemical Burns from Corrosive Substances

Chemical burns occur when the skin comes into contact with strong acids, alkalis, or other corrosive substances commonly used in industrial settings, such as sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid. These nasty chemicals can eat right through skin and tissue, causing serious damage. Workers in manufacturing, laboratories, and cleaning services are often at the greatest risk for chemical burns. But even seemingly innocuous products like bleach or pool chlorine can cause painful burns if not handled properly. The key is to always read labels carefully, wear the right protective gear, and follow safety protocols to the letter. 

Electrical burns happen when electric current passes through the body, causing tissue damage. They often occur due to contact with exposed wires, faulty equipment, or lightning strikes. And boy, do they hurt – electrical burns can cause serious internal injuries you might not even see on the surface. Electricians, utility workers, and anyone working around high-voltage lines or equipment are at the highest risk. But even a small jolt from a frayed cord can leave a nasty burn. The best defense is proper training, well-maintained equipment, and a healthy respect for the power of electricity.

Friction Burns

Friction burns result from skin rubbing against a hard surface, often at high speed. They commonly affect the hands and can occur when using rope or handling machinery. Think nasty rope burn from a tug-of-war gone wrong, or an unfortunate tumble on the carpet. In the workplace, friction burns often happen in industries like manufacturing, construction, or landscaping where workers frequently handle rough materials or operate powerful equipment. The constant rubbing can quickly wear away skin, leaving a raw, painful abrasion. Wearing gloves, using the right tools for the job, and taking breaks to avoid overuse can help prevent these pesky injuries.

Degrees and Severity of Burn Injuries

Not all burns are created equal. Burn severity is typically classified by degrees, with first-degree being the least severe and fourth-degree being the most catastrophic. Here’s a quick breakdown: First-degree burns are the least severe, only affecting the outer layer of skin (epidermis). The skin is red, painful, and dry but does not blister. These burns usually heal within 3-6 days without scarring. Think of a mild sunburn – your skin is angry and inflamed, but it’ll calm down in a few days with some aloe vera and TLC. First-degree burns at work often result from brief contact with a hot surface, minor scalds, or friction. While they’re no picnic, they’re usually not serious enough to warrant a trip to the ER.

Second-Degree Burns (Partial Thickness)

Second-degree burns damage the epidermis and part of the dermis layer. The skin appears red, blistered, swollen, and wet. These burns are painful and often require medical treatment. Healing typically takes 2-3 weeks and may cause scarring. If you’ve ever spilled boiling water on your hand while cooking, you know the agony of a second-degree burn. The pain is intense, and those blisters can linger for weeks. In the workplace, these burns often result from more prolonged exposure to heat, chemicals, or electricity. They definitely warrant a visit to the doctor or burn clinic.

Third-Degree Burns (Full Thickness)

Third-degree burns destroy both the epidermis and entire dermis. The skin may appear white, black, brown, or leathery and is usually painless due to nerve damage. These severe burns often damage underlying bones, muscles, and tendons. Immediate medical attention is critical. Third-degree burns are no joke – they can be life-threatening and cause permanent disfigurement. In the workplace, they often result from direct contact with open flames, high-voltage electricity, or prolonged exposure to extremely hot liquids or chemicals. If you suspect a third-degree burn, call 911 immediately. This is a medical emergency, not something you can tough out.

Immediate First Aid for Workplace Burn Injuries

Burns are one of the most common workplace injuries, but many people don’t know the proper first aid steps. Acting quickly and correctly can mean the difference between a speedy recovery and a lengthy hospital stay. Here’s what to do: Quickly assess the severity of the burn by determining its size, depth, and location.

First-degree burns are superficial, while second and third-degree burns require medical attention. Is the skin red and painful but not blistered? That’s likely a first-degree burn. Blistered, swollen skin indicates a second-degree burn. If the skin looks white, black, or leathery, you’re dealing with a third-degree burn. Burns on the face, hands, feet, or genitals are also considered more severe.

Cooling the Burn Area

Immediately cool the burn area with cool running water for at least 10-15 minutes. This helps stop the burning process, reduces pain, and prevents further tissue damage. Do not use ice, as it can cause frostbite. If running water isn’t available, you can apply a cool, wet compress. Just make sure it’s clean and sterile. Never apply butter, oil, or ointment to a burn – these can trap heat and make the injury worse. After cooling, gently cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick dressing or clean cloth. This helps protect the burn site and prevent infection. Do not apply butter, oil, or ointments, as they can trap heat and worsen the injury. If the burn is on a hand or foot, remove any jewelry or tight clothing before swelling occurs. Do not pop blisters – they’re nature’s Band-Aids and help prevent infection.

Seeking Medical Attention

Seek medical attention from a qualified health practitioner for all second and third-degree burns, as well as first-degree burns larger than 3 inches or on sensitive areas like the face, hands, or genitals. Call emergency services for severe or life-threatening burns. Even if a burn seems minor, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. Burns can easily become infected, leading to serious complications. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to seek professional medical advice.

Preventing Burns and Scalds in the Workplace

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that’s especially true when it comes to workplace burns. By identifying hazards and implementing smart safety measures, employers can significantly reduce the risk of these painful injuries. Here’s how: Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential burn hazards in the workplace, such as hot surfaces, open flames, steam, corrosive chemicals, and electrical sources. 

Implementing Safety Protocols

Develop and implement safety protocols to minimize the risk of burns. This may include proper labeling of hot surfaces and hazardous substances, establishing safe work practices, and ensuring adequate ventilation and temperature control. For example, requiring oven mitts in the kitchen, mandating proper chemical handling procedures, or establishing a “no open flame” policy can all help prevent burns.

The key is to make safety a integral part of daily operations. Provide employees with appropriate PPE to prevent burns, such as heat-resistant gloves, aprons, face shields, and safety glasses. Ensure PPE is well-maintained, properly fitted, and consistently used when required. The right PPE can quite literally be a lifesaver. But it’s not enough to just provide the gear – employees must be trained on its proper use and understand the importance of wearing it every time.

Training Employees on Burn Prevention

Regularly train employees on burn prevention strategies, including recognizing hazards, following safety protocols, using PPE correctly, and responding to burn emergencies. Encourage a culture of safety and open communication about potential risks. Burn prevention should be a key component of every workplace safety program. By empowering employees with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and their coworkers, employers can create a safer, healthier work environment for all.

Employer Responsibilities for Burn Safety

When it comes to workplace burn prevention, the buck stops with the employer. Companies have a legal and ethical obligation to protect their workers from these devastating injuries. Here’s what every responsible employer should be doing: Employers must conduct regular risk assessments to identify burn hazards and evaluate the effectiveness of existing control measures. Risk assessments should be documented, reviewed, and updated as necessary. This isn’t a one-and-done deal – as the workplace evolves, so too must the safety plan. New equipment, processes, or materials can introduce new burn risks that must be addressed proactively.

Implementing Control Measures

Based on risk assessment findings, employers must implement appropriate control measures to eliminate or minimize burn risks. This may include engineering controls (e.g., machine guarding), administrative controls (e.g., safe work procedures), and PPE. The hierarchy of controls prioritizes elimination and substitution of hazards over less effective measures like PPE. For example, replacing a hazardous chemical with a safer alternative is preferable to relying on gloves and goggles. Employers should ensure that an adequate number of employees are trained in first aid, including burn treatment. First aid kits must be readily accessible and well-stocked with burn dressings and other necessary supplies. In the event of a burn injury, having trained first responders on site can make a world of difference. Employers shouldalso have clear emergency protocols in place for more severe burns requiring professional medical attention.

Reporting and Investigating Burn Incidents

Employers are responsible for reporting and investigating burn incidents, including near misses. Investigations should identify root causes and lead to corrective actions to prevent future occurrences. Notifiable incidents of burns must be reported to the relevant authorities. No one wants to think about worst-case scenarios, but thorough incident investigations are crucial for preventing future tragedies. By identifying the underlying factors that contributed to a burn injury, employers can take steps to address them and keep workers safe.

burns and scalds in the workplace

As a victim of burn injuries, timely legal representation is crucial, especially if your burns resulted from someone else’s negligence in an accident. Collecting and preserving evidence promptly after the incident is essential to substantiate your claim of another party’s liability for your injuries. Delaying in hiring an experienced burn injury lawyer in Baltimore can result in the loss of crucial evidence, making it more challenging for your attorney to establish the negligence of the responsible party in causing your burn injuries.

Key Takeaway: 

Workplace burns, from hot liquids to electrical shocks, are preventable with the right awareness and safety measures. Quick, correct first aid can turn a bad situation around fast. Make sure your workplace is up on its burn prevention game: identify hazards, gear up with the right protective equipment, train everyone well and keep an eye out for each other.

FAQs in Relation to Burns and Scalds in the Workplace

How do you deal with burns at work?

Cool the burn under running water, cover it loosely with a sterile dressing, and seek medical advice for serious cases.

What are the guidelines for burns?

Stop the burning process, cool the area gently without causing hypothermia, cover it lightly, and get professional help if needed.

What rules should you follow when treating burns and scalds?

Avoid ice or greasy substances. Use lukewarm water to cool down. Cover with clean cloth. Check severity before deciding on next steps.

How do you prevent burns and scalds in the workplace?

Identify hazards early on. Train everyone well. Gear up with protective equipment. Keep emergency protocols handy and clear to all.


We’ve walked through dark alleys today – those where burns and scalds in the workplace are just lurking around every corner. Yet, as daunting as they appear under dim lights, there’s hope shining brightly at us from exit signs marked ‘Prevention’ and ‘First Aid.’

Burns and scalds don’t have to be inevitable narratives within our workplaces; instead let them serve as reminders that vigilance paired with proper education transforms potential tragedies into testimonies of resilience.

The story doesn’t end here though; it continues each day we choose safety over shortcuts because after all is said done—our collective wellbeing stitches together stronger fabric than any protective gear ever could alone.

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