For workers in factories, on construction sites and in many other occupations, burn injuries are a serious threat. The big explosions and fires that result in serious injuries make it into the news, giving us the false sense that these types of injuries are unusual. But, in fact, they may be more common than most people you realized.
Per the American Burn Association (ABA), around 500,000 workers get medical treatment for burns annually. That does not take into account mild burns that still may require on-site treatment. Half a million people wind up in the hospital or the doctor's office. That's a staggering number.
Not just heat
One thing to remember is that burns do not just come from heat or open flames. Many do, of course, but workers can also get burned by chemicals and scalding water. At high temperatures, steam can burn the skin. Open electrical wires, when touched, may lead to burns. Explosions and fires are a risk, but workers have to be aware of the many sources of burn injuries.
A lot of these burns can be prevented. For instance, some workers do not have the right PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), or they have it but no one ever trained them to use it properly. Employers also need to understand these many risk sources, then, so that they can set their workers up for safety on any job site.
There are three different "degrees" when looking at burn injuries. These signify how bad the damage is and they offer some insight into potential healing. The three main levels are:
- First-degree burns. These are relatively minor burns that leave the skin red and irritated, but free from blisters. They may hurt at the moment and may stay tender for a few days. Over time, even without treatment, these burns often fade and leave no trace behind.
- Second-degree burns: The skin still appears red at the burn site, but it may also have blisters. Some areas may appear worse than others. In some cases, the skin thickens and suffers deeper damage.
- Third-degree burns: These are some of the most serious burns you can experience, and they will put you in the hospital. Your skin may take on a leathery appearance, even looking rather white, and will show widespread thickness.
You can have more severe burns, such as fourth-degree burns, though they are less common. This is when damage extends beyond the skin itself, impacting bones, tendons and other tissue. Serious burns can lead to incredible pain, long-term medical treatment and disabilities that last for life. Burns on visible areas, like the hands and face, may also leave scars that never heal.
If you suffer such serious injuries on the job in California, it is critical that you know what options you have, especially if you think that these injuries have ended your career entirely.