According to some estimates, about one in every five major injuries in the workplace is a burn. People tend to dismiss burn injuries as relatively minor. Nothing could be further from the truth:
- Significant injuries over a large proportion of the skin are often fatal, because the body’s attempt to compensate for the damage causes changes in blood chemistry and metabolism.
- Because burns damage the skin—the body’s first line of defense against bacteria—burns can lead to life-threatening infections.
- And, of course, burns across exposed areas can leave behind unsightly scar tissue; such disfigurement is often associated with mental health problems for the injury victim.
The Variety of Occupational Burn Injury Risks
Everyone recognizes that an explosion or structural fire could take place at any workplace. Those sorts of incidents do happen, but they are not responsible for most occupational burn injuries in Pennsylvania. Rather, the typical workplace has dozens of other hazards that can sear, scald, and scorch employees. It’s no wonder than about 25 percent of all hospital burn cases start out as work-related injuries.
Burn injuries at work can be broadly classified into five different categories:
- Thermal burns – These injuries are due to contact with fires or heated items. Burns due to excessive heat can be caused by exposed flames, hot water, steam, hot metal conduits or piping, and furnaces. Thermal burns are especially common risks in industrial plants and food service venues.
- Electrical burns – The seared flesh caused by the passage of electricity through the body is different from a thermal burn in one important way: electrical burns can do significant internal damage without leaving much of an indication on the skin. For the same reason, electrical burns can be harder to treat.
- Chemical and caustic burns – Exposure to acids and alkalis can damage skin and deeper tissues almost the same way as exposure to fire. Exposures to caustic substances always carry the risk that the damage will worsen until the chemical is neutralized and removed from the body.
- Cryogenic burns – Contact with low temperatures also damages the skin in ways similar to heat. Skin contact with refrigeration units can cause frostbite. Exposure to super cooled fluids, such as liquid air or liquid nitrogen, may instantly freeze unprotected body parts and will require immediate lifesaving medical attention.
- Radiological burns – This broad category includes damage by radiant light energy (especially ultraviolet light), microwaves, x-rays, and ionizing nuclear radiation.
Seeking Compensation for Occupational Burn Injuries
Under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, an employee who suffers a work-related burn injury should receive appropriate medical treatment and, if temporarily disabled, a modest income during his recovery. These benefits ought to be paid by his employer’s insurance company, and they should be available regardless of who was at fault for the occupational injury.
Unfortunately, our experience as Harrisburg workers’ compensation attorneys is that too many insurance adjusters do their best to deny full payment for workplace injuries. That’s why we wrote our guide, Who Pays The Bills When You Are Injured At Work? You can request a FREE copy of this report and set up a confidential attorney meeting about your Pennsylvania workers’ compensation case by calling Schmidt Kramer at (717) 888-8888. We do not charge for your initial attorney conference; in fact, we pledge that we won’t bill you for attorney fees AT ALL unless we can get you a financial recovery.