Burns & Scalds injuries in the workplace
Posted: Monday the 5th of October 2020
In the period 2019/20 (Sept 20), an estimated 693,000 workers sustained a non-fatal injury at work in Great Britain according to employer reported incidents under RIDDOR, equivalent to a rate of 2,160 injuries per 100,000 workers (2%). Around a quarter of these injuries resulted in over-7-days absence from work and or hospitalisation. The rate of self-reported incidents via the Labour Force Survey for non-fatal injury to workers shows a generally downward trend, but has been broadly flat in recent years. These figures include burns and scalds. The Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh and it’s Faculty or Pre-Hospital Care along with the British Burns Association provide clear evidence based guidance for first aid treatment for burns and scalds that was published in September 2020. Below we examine the workplace data that is available from the HSE and the likelihood of treating a burn at work. Having a competent, well trained and well informed workforce is key in reducing these types of injures in the workplace. The HSE report indicates that the three top sectors where injuries occur are by number 1) Construction, 2) Agriculture & Forestry, 3) Manufacturing.
The data: workplace burns and scalds
Here at Remote First Aid & Pre-Hospital Training, we examined the available data from both the HSE and the LFS from January 2019 up to September 2020.
With 118 workers being exposed to fire, a further 52 workers being exposed to an explosion and another 193 workers who had contact with electricity or an electrical discharge reported burns and scalds are thankfully very low in injury type. Additionally as to date an unspecified number of workers received burns within the 7518 workers with 6531 requiring to stay in hospital longer that 7-days, making up 14% of all workplace incidents that fall under all other injuries.
During the period above three workers have died due to being killed in either an explosion, exposure to fire and an electrical discharge as reported under Reporting of Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
The biggest workplace burns and scalds risks
According to the World Health Organization, the most common types of burn injuries in the workplace occur as a result of accidental misuse or mishandling of thermal, chemical or electrical sources or because of fire.
The consequences of workplace burns and scalds
The Health & Safety Executive states that many serious accidents at work resulting in burns can be avoided using due diligence. Employers can be fined heavily if these injuries result from unsafe work practices, including employees not having the correct training, protective clothing or equipment.
What is a burn?
The NHS describes burns and scalds as damage to the skin, usually caused by heat. Both are treated the same way. A burn is caused by dry heat; an iron or a fire for example. A scald is caused by wet matter, such as hot water or steam.
Burns can be extremely painful and cause:
- Red or peeling skin
- White or charred skin
The amount of pain someone might experience is not always related to how serious the burn is. Even a very serious burn might seem relatively painless.
National Burn Awareness Day which is on the 14th of October each year and which we fully support, seeks to promote prevention and good first aid as key to reducing the number of burns and scalds occurring across Great Britain every day.
Appropriate first aid must be used to treat any burns or scalds as promptly as possible. This will limit the amount of damage to the skin. The following information is not designed to replace the HSE required face to face training in meeting the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 (First Aid Regulations 1981). Employers are required by law to carryout a first aid needs assessment and act on these findings including sourcing appropriate first aid training. This includes assessing the first aid needs of those working from home, during the current Pandemic.
- Quickly stop the burning by removing the person from the area, dousing flames with water or smothering flames with a blanket.
- Remove any clothing or jewellery near the burnt area but nothing which is stuck to burnt skin and could cause further damage.
- Cool the burn with cool water for 20 minutes as soon as possible, ideally utilising an emergency shower or other suitable means.
- Keep the person warm using blankets or clothing but never place them on the injured area. Warmth will prevent hypothermia, where a person’s body temperature drops below 35C (95F). Hypothermia is a risk when cooling a large burnt area.
- Place a number of layers of cling film over the burn, rather than wrapping around a limb. A clean plastic bag can be used for hand burns.
- Sit upright if the face is burnt. Avoid lying down as this could increase swelling.
- Large or deep burns bigger than the victim’s hand
- Burns that cause white or charred skin
- Burns on the face, hands, arms, feet, legs or genitals that cause blisters
- All chemical and electrical burns
- Has other injuries requiring treatment
- Is going into shock – signs include clammy skin, sweating, shallow breathing, weakness or dizziness
- Is pregnant
- Is aged 60+
- Is aged under five
- Has a medical condition; heart, lung liver disease or diabetes
- Has a weakened immune system; now includes Long Covid symptoms, HIV or AIDS or is undergoing chemotherapy.
- If someone has inhaled smoke or fumes they should seek medical attention
- Or you have any concerns about their condition.
Delayed symptoms may include:
- Sore throat
- Difficulty breathing
- Singed nasal hair
- Facial burns
Electrical burns may not look serious but can be damaging and require immediate attention at a hospital A&E.
If someone has been injured by a low-voltage source (220 to 240 volts) for example a domestic electricity supply, switch off the power supply or remove the person from the electrical source using a material that does not conduct electricity, such as a wooden stick.
Never approach a person who is connected to a high voltage source (1,000 volts or more).
Acid and chemical burns
Acid and chemical burns require immediate A&E attention.
If possible, find out which chemical caused the burn and tell the healthcare professionals.
If you are helping someone,
- Remove contaminated clothing on the skin
- If the chemical is dry, brush it off their skin
- Use running water to remove any traces of the chemical from the burnt area
Learn how to treat and manage sudden illness or injury in the workplace including burns and scalds by enrolling on to our environment specific first aid training courses.
Regularly reviewing your training needs including annual refresher training that the HSE recommends is key to a healthy workforce. This alongside reviewing your accident statistics will guide you in your first aid equipment provision also.
Burn treatments, first aid and pre-hospital care.
Due to the current Pandemic the full statistics for 2020 will be released in mid 2021..