Burn Hazards and Prevention
The human body is a fragile thing. It doesn’t matter how often you work-out, what kind of food you eat, or what kind of car you drive, we are all made of the same fragile exterior, skin. A very common injury that can happen to us, at work or home, is being burned. The American Burn Association reports over 40,000 hospitalizations every year due to burns.
Types of Burns
Thermal – The most common type of burn, and probably the one most people associate with. This can happen 2 ways.
- Physical contact is made with a hot surface, flame, explosion, or hot liquid.
- Exposure to extremely hot air or UV rays (i.e. sunburn)
Chemical – As a result of contacting a strong acid, corrosive, caustic, or alkaloid substance. Chemicals can be found all over job sites, always read and follow the warning labels and be mindful of other people working near you.
- Demolition and clean-up work can be very dangerous. If you are handling old materials without labels be very cautious and wear PPE like gloves, goggles, and respirators.
- It is important to know how to flush/wash off a chemical you are using. If you do need to clean up after a splash, water is not always the correct choice. (Hint: sometimes its milk!)
Electrical – This occurs at the point of contact to a live electrical component, and at the where the current exits the body. It can also cause burns inside the body as current travels through the tissue. Electrical burns are extremely painful and difficult to treat.
Burns usually come from working very close to the hazard. As we refer to the Hierarchy of Control and Hazard Assessment, the best way to protect ourselves and others is to:
Thermal: Shut down and let cool any equipment or area being worked on. Place guards or barriers around hot objects.
Chemical: Do not work where other people are using chemicals. Hire out a proper clean up/remediation company. Stop using dangerous chemicals, substitute with a less dangerous option.
Electrical: De-Energize wires and equipment in the space you are working to avoid accidental contact.
PPE – The last line of defense in the Hierarchy is PPE, although it should always be used, sometimes it is the only option. Long sleeves, pants, sunscreen, face shields, hard hats, goggles, and gloves are all very good protectors.
A burn of any kind is painful. Think back to the last really bad sunburn you had, it was even hard to sleep that night. Severe thermal, chemical, and electrical burns can take weeks to heal. Don’t let your ego protect you, chances are it won’t stand up to the heat.
Questions for you
- What are the 3 most common burn hazards for our company?
- How will we protect ourselves from those 3 hazards?
- Find the most common chemical you use and read the hazard label. Are you using it safely?