Healing Workers’ comp and treatment options for burns on the job
Burns are one of the common injuries in the workplace. A serious burn injury at work leaves the victim with physical and emotional scars that may take a long time to heal—if they ever do.
Employers in North Carolina must adhere to various federal, state and industry standards to prevent burn injuries, but accidents inevitably happen. Fortunately, most employees in the state are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who or what caused their injury.
In cases of severe burns, workers’ compensation insurance should cover all medical expenses (including emergency treatment, surgeries, follow-up medical visits and prescribed medication) that you require to treat the burns and increase your chances of recovery.
Types of burn injuries in the workplace
The 3 most common types of workplace burn injuries are thermal, electrical and chemical.
Thermal burns can be caused by a stove, hot liquids, steam, fire, industrial machinery or other factors. If you are burned in a fire, the first thing to do is to extinguish the flames. (Remember your kindergarten training: stop, drop and roll!)
First responders may have to remove any burned clothes. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that all belts, rings and jewelry be removed from burned areas as well since these wounds often swell.
Thermal burns are classified into 3 types:
- First-degree burns. These mild burns affect the top layer of the skin. A classic example is a sunburn. Redness, discomfort to touch and slight swelling are some of the symptoms of first-degree burns.
Injury management for first-degree burns includes using a wet, cold compress or immersing the skin in cold water until the pain subsides. After that, cover the burn with a non-adhesive bandage or sterile gauze. Don’t use ointment as it can result in infection and severe complications. Over-the-counter medications can also be used to help relieve swelling and discomfort.
Most first-degree burns recover on their own with time; however, if the burn covers a significant part of the body or the worker is older, emergency assistance should be offered.
- Second-degree burns. These types of burns reach the skin’s second layer. Deep reddening of the skin, blisters, leaking fluid, discomfort and potential skin loss are all possible signs of a second-degree burn.
For 10-15 minutes, immerse the skin in cold water. Blisters should not be broken, and ointment should not be applied since they may cause infections. Elevate burned arm and legs.
Necessary precautions should be taken to prevent the victim from going into shock. This involves laying them flat on their back and elevating their feet while covering them with a blanket. In the case of a head, back or leg burn injury, you should not put the patient in the shock position.
For second-degree burns, the safest course of action is to seek urgent emergency medical attention.
- Third-degree burns. These kinds of burns penetrate every layer of skin and also cause damage to the underlying tissue. The skin will look leathery, dry, burnt or discolored. Breathing problems can also result. For third-degree burns, you should seek emergency assistance immediately.
Electrical burns are caused by an electrical current or a spark. Unlike thermal burns, electric jolts, shocks or burns may not be visible since the damage is often deep under the skin.
Electrical burns may lead to heart problems, including cardiac arrest. In addition, victims may experience breathing difficulties and loss of consciousness.
Seeking urgent medical attention is the safest course of action for any burn injury from electric shock. Furthermore, remove the victim from any electrical sources by using an object that doesn’t conduct electricity. The energy sources that burnt the victim should be disconnected immediately. CPR may be necessary to revive the victim.
Chemical burns are caused by a substance used by the employee that contains caustic or poisonous ingredients like cleansers. These types of burns are common in mining, industrial and similar industries.
If a worker is exposed to a chemical burn injury at work, the chemical should be removed quickly. Wet chemicals must be handled with caution. If you extract the chemical, you should wear protective clothing and take precautions to avoid being burned.
If the employee is in shock, faints or has trouble breathing, it means the chemical burn is deep. If the burns affect the eyes, hands, feet, face, buttocks, groin or a significant joint, call 911 immediately.
Workers’ compensation burn injury settlements in North Carolina
Most workers in North Carolina are entitled to workers’ compensation if they are burned while on the job. Many injured workers want to know how much their burn injury case is worth before pursuing legal action or after being offered a settlement by their employer’s insurance company.
However, it’s important to understand that every case is different. Ultimately, only an experienced and knowledgeable attorney can accurately determine how much your burn injury case is worth.
The victim of a workplace burn injury can sustain deep tissue damage, requiring years of costly care and rehabilitation. Medical expenses, as well as other costs and losses, may be much higher than employers or insurers are willing to admit. Some burn patients are never able to return to work.