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Burn Injuries in the Workplace

Burn Injuries in the Workplace

Work-related burns are a leading cause of occupational injuries in the United States. As many as 20 to 30 percent of all burn-related hospitalizations are due to workplace injuries, according to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Those who suffer from on-the-job burn injuries can be subjected to serious, debilitating effects.

Types of Workplace Burn Injuries

The most common types of burn injuries that occur on the job are thermal, chemical and electrical burns. Thermal burns occur as a result of exposure to or direct contact with an external heat source such as an open flame, steam, hot liquids, flash and hot surfaces. A chemical burn is an irritation or destruction of human tissue caused by exposure to or direct contact with a substance that causes a chemical reaction on the skin and may occur with or without heat. The chemical change will continue to cause damage to the skin until the reaction is complete or the chemical is flushed away. Electrical burns can occur as a result of exposure to or direct contact with electrical current. The electrical current can travel through the body and meets resistance in its tissues and organs, causing heat burn injuries.

Occupations Most at Risk for Burn Injuries

Although burn injuries can happen to individuals who work in any field, a few of the occupations that are at a higher risk of workplace burn injuries include:

  • Construction workers
  • Electricians
  • Maintenance workers
  • Utility company workers
  • Mechanics
  • Roofers and slaters
  • Sheet metal workers
  • Welders
  • Pavers
  • Food service workers
  • Firefighters
  • Agricultural workers

Effects of Workplace Burn Injuries

Burn injuries can be classified by four degrees, with first-degree burns being the most severe. Those who suffer serious burn injuries in the workplace may be subjected to physical scarring; nerve, muscle or tissue damage; respiratory damage; loss of mobility; bacterial infections; irregular or loss of body temperature regulation; amputations and, in some instances, death. Burn injury victims may also undergo emotional and psychological deficiencies including, but not limited to, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviors, alcohol and substance abuse, sleep disturbance and psychosomatic illnesses.

Negligence and Workplace Burn Injuries

Although workers' compensation can provide money and benefits for on-the-job injuries, temporary and permanent disability, the payments may be low and do not provide compensation for pain and suffering. Also, workers' compensation does not provide punitive damages to punish an employer who fails to maintain a safe work environment and disregards safety controls. An employer has a duty of reasonable care to maintain the safety of his or her workers. An employee who suffers from a serious workplace burn injury that occurs as a result of an employer's breach of duty may be entitled to compensation. It is important for employees to understand that they may have a right to bring a burn injury lawsuit against responsible parties in addition to receiving worker's compensation benefits.

Employees that suffer from workplace burn injuries may face serious physical and emotional effects that can impact their daily lives. In some instances, burn injuries require extensive hospital stays, expensive medical treatment and therapy, and long-term care services. If you are an individual who suffered a burn injury as a result of another person's negligence or misconduct, it is important to contact an experienced New York burn injury lawyer who can advise you of your legal rights and remedies. 

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