Russell Worth Personal Injury Blog:

Too hot to handle – burns and scalds in the workplace

Sep 29, 2017 | Industrial Accidents

Russell Worth Personal Injury Blog:

Too hot to handle – burns and scalds in the workplace

Burns and scalds can be devastating, even fatal. Most of us have received minor burns which after an initial period of pain and discomfort go on to heal with no permanent effects, but we could barely imagine the agony of those at the other end of the spectrum who have received injuries to large swathes of their body or through several layers of skin. The recovery from such an injury is likely to be excruciating and slow, and the full physical and mental effects may never heal.

In this article, we will delve into some of the common types and causes of severe burns in the workplace, some real-life cases of workers who have been badly injured by burns, what can be done to prevent or limit such an injury, and whether it is possible to claim compensation.

Not all burns are caused by heat

Burns and scalds differ; burns are caused by dry heat sources (e.g., fire) whilst scalding is caused by hot water or steam. The medical treatment for both is however broadly the same. Burns aren’t necessarily caused by heat, they can also occur due to contact with cold, electricity, chemicals, radiation, and friction; and your employer has a duty to ensure that you are not exposed to any of these potential causes of injury in the course of your day to day work.

The severity of burns is graded as follows:

  • First-degree – burns to the top layer of skin
  • Second-degree – :
    • Superficial partial-thickness burns affecting the first two layers of skin, or;
    • Deep partial-thickness burns affecting deeper skin layers
  • Third-degree – full-thickness burns affecting all layers of the skin
  • Fourth-degree – has an impact on each layer of skin in addition to muscle, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, and bones

It is very likely that you would require medical attention for third and fourth-degree burns, or a more serious second-degree burn that is wide spread and / or relatively deep.

The smallest mistake can have devastating consequences

Earlier this year, a large UK electrical engineering company, Park Gate & Company, and Armstrong World Industries were fined £80,000 and £400,000 respectively after a 28-year old man suffered extensive burns to his face, arms, and hands when he accidentally severed a live power cable. The Newcastle Crown Court, following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), confirmed that neither company had taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety of the worker, specifically by failing to check for the existence of a power cable and then cutting off the electricity. In a similar case, the large construction company, Amey, was fined £600,000 for failing to pass on to a subcontractor information regarding the presence of a live power cable. Steven Brown was using a breaker to dig up the road to replace a traffic light when it hit the live cable, causing him to set on fire. As a result, Mr. Brown suffered serious and deep burns to his hands, arms, stomach, face, legs, and chest. Whilst these cases are devastating in their impact, they represent a small sample of many such workplace injuries.

What can you do to assist the victim of a severe burn or scald?

In the event of a serious burn, the best advice is always to dial 999 to request medical assistance. Whilst waiting for a paramedic, where possible those helping the victim should:

1) Seek to isolate the source of the burn; this may require an electrical source to be switched off (never touch the victim until the power is off)
2) Check for circulation – commence CPR if necessary
3) Remove any restrictive items of clothing or jewellery
4) Do not use cold water if the burn is extensive – this can risk hypothermia
5) Elevate the wound
6) Cover the wound with a cool, moist bandage

Can I make a claim for compensation if I have suffered a burn or scalding at work?

If you instruct a personal injury solicitor to handle your case, the first task they will undertake is to establish if you have a valid claim. To pursue a claim for a burn or scalding at work, it must be proven that the employer was negligent and that this directly caused the accident to occur. Taking the two examples above, if there was a failure to communicate or check the existence of a high voltage power cable in the proximity of planned work and this led to an accident, this is a clear case of negligence. Likewise, if an employer fails to provide adequate safety equipment, such as a working fire extinguisher, or protective gloves to prevent heat, cold or chemical burn, this could be an omission by the employer, which would be grounds for a claim if such an injury occurs.

At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have suffered a burn or scald at work and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.

Excellent. The service was efficient from start to finish and I would not hesitate to recommend Russell Worth Solicitors to anybody who is unfortunate enough to meet with a personal injury that is not their fault.
Hilary Ann

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