The first week in February is the American Burn Association’s Burn Awareness Week. In recognition of the serious and sometimes life-changing impact of burns, we will talk about work-related burns and electrocution. Burn injuries, if they arise out of and occur in the course of employment, can be the basis for a Maryland Workers’ Compensation claim.
According to the Burn Foundation, the food service industry has the most burn injuries of any type of job at around 12,000 annually, often from scalding or contact with hot surfaces, substances or flame. On the list of the top 50 jobs at risk of work-related burn injuries are waiters, food handlers, cooks and kitchen workers.
Most workplace burns involve contact with hot liquids, oil, steam, substances, surfaces, electric wires or “improperly maintained” electrical equipment.
Teenage fry cooks at fast food establishments are at especially high risk of burns because of time pressure and “inexperience.” In fact, work with and around deep fat fryers are particularly dangerous, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, which reports risk from changing filters above fryers, filtering or replacing grease, splatter from damp food dropped into hot grease, moving hot fryers, and slipping on grease and moisture on adjacent floors.
Burns are associated with:
- Lax enforcement or failure to follow safety rules
- Employees who work while sick, fatigued or “compromised by drugs or alcohol”
- Taking risks because of familiarity with tasks or time pressure
Nature of burns
According to Mayo Clinic, a burn can be minor, serious or even cause death. Medical description is by degree:
- First degree: Only the outer skin layer is involved with pain, swelling and redness.
- Second degree: The top two layers of skin are injured, with severe pain and possible blistering and the potential for scars.
- Third degree: This burn reaches through to the fat layer, which can harm nerves, result in numbness and even breathing problems.
Further complications can include serious infection, including sepsis, decreased blood volume, low body temperature, respiratory problems and slow healing. Sometimes a particularly deep burn can cause scar tissue that limits movement or “permanently pull joints out of position,” reports Mayo. Emotional difficulty and anxiety can also accompany severe burn injury.
A wide range of treatment types is available, including dressings, pain medication, antibiotics, fluids, creams, physical or occupational therapy, plastic surgery, skin grafting and strengthening exercise. In catastrophic cases, the patient may need assistance with breathing or eating through a tube.