Burns are among the worst injuries the human body can suffer. Yet, in many workplaces, employees are exposed to open flame, sparks, electrical currents and a variety of other heat sources, as well as flammable and corrosive chemicals and gases.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific standards and regulations for fire and burn safety in the workplace and for the use and handling of hazardous chemicals and gases. South Carolina has adopted the federal OSHA standards verbatim, with a few exceptions.
Despite those rules, OSHA still cites “fires and explosions” as the cause for 143 workplace fatalities and 2,200 job site injuries in 2011.
When workers are not properly trained or safety rules are not enforced and workers suffer burn injuries or death in the workplace, those who neglected the safety regulations should be held accountable for workers’ losses, pain and suffering.
The Risk of Burn Injuries at Work
OSHA says employers should train workers about fire hazards in the workplace and about what to do in a fire emergency. This plan should outline the assignments of key personnel in the event of a fire and provide an evacuation plan for workers on the site. In the construction industry, a “fire plan” should be set up prior to beginning any demolition job.
The risk of fire in any workplace is real, but an open flame is not the only source of burn injuries at a job site. OSHA says workplace burn injuries are often caused by electrical currents.
Burns suffered in electrical incidents may be one or more of the following types:
- Electrical burns caused by heat generated by the flow of electric current through the body. Electrical burns cause tissue damage and are one of the most serious injuries you can receive. They should be given immediate first aid and/or medical attention.
- High temperatures near the body produced by an electric arc or explosion result in arc or flash burns. They should also be attended to promptly.
- Thermal contact burns, which occur when skin comes in contact with overheated electrical equipment or when clothing is ignited in an electrical incident.
Excessive electricity flowing through the human body can cause serious damage to internal organs. Additionally, the involuntary muscle contractions caused by electric shock can damage muscles, tendons and ligaments and may even cause broken bones.
Most electrocution deaths in adults are work related, and electrocution is a frequent cause of workplace deaths, the American Burn Association says.
Chemical burns are also a concern in the industrial workplace. Corrosive or caustic chemicals can cause severe burn damage if they come in contact with the skin or eyes. Chemicals ranging from industrial acids and alkaloids to more commonly used chemicals such as paint thinner or gasoline can cause workplace burn injuries.
Young Workers and Workplace Burns
OSHA points out that burn injuries are common among teenage employees in restaurants. Young employees who work as fry cooks are at special risk for workplace burn injuries. Factors such as inexperience and the pressure to “keep up” during busy periods can lead to errors.
Kitchen workers of all ages are exposed to burn injuries caused by hot oil, grease, steam, hot food and beverages and equipment such as stoves, grills, steamers and fryers. Deep fat fryers are the No. 1 cause of burn injuries among restaurant workers, OSHA says.
Child labor laws generally do not permit workers younger than 16 to cook, except at soda fountains, lunch counters, snack bars and cafeteria serving counters. But these laws are sometimes ignored for a young worker who looks capable or is a “friend” or by an employer who needs to fill a position.
Legal Help After a Job Site Burn Injury
Serious burns can cause deep tissue damage and may lead to years of expensive treatment and recovery. Medical expenses and other losses could easily combine to exceed six figures. Severe burns prevent many victims from ever working for a living again.
In many cases, the accident that causes a workplace burn injury could have been avoided if employers had not failed to adhere to safety regulations. But regardless of whether an employer followed proper procedures, an injured worker may be due compensation. South Carolina workers’ compensation benefits apply regardless of negligence.
In addition to obtaining workers’ comp benefits, a worker who suffered a serious burn on the job might pursue a personal injury lawsuit if there was a third party responsible for causing or contributing to their injuries.
This might be an option if:
- A defective product caused a burn injury;
- Negligence on the part of someone other than a direct employer, such as a project manager, an architect or engineer, caused the injury; or
- A subcontractor’s employee or a vendor working at the job site caused the accident.
If a party other than the employer is responsible for the injury, a lawsuit could be the most viable course of action.
Our South Carolina Workplace Burn Injury Lawyers Can Help You Now
Burns caused by workplace accidents are often severe and complex. To find out more about your workplace burn injury case, discuss it with one of the skilled attorneys at Joye Law Firm.
Your initial consultation is free. Call Joye Law Firm. You can reach us at (877) 941-1019 or complete our online case evaluation form.
- OSHA – Fatal occupational injuries by event or exposure, 2011
- OSHA – Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses, 2011
- OSHA – Fire Safety – Hazards and possible solutions
- OSHA – Electrical Incidents – Burns and other injuries
- OSHA – Young worker safety in restaurants
- American Burn Association – Electrical Safety: Educator’s Guide