Workplace Injury: Chemical Burns
A severe injury that occurs in the workplace is a chemical burn injury, which could have life-altering effects on employees. Chemical burn injuries are a result of exposure to acid, alkali, or organic compounds. Depending on the severity of the burn, patients could require extensive medical treatment. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options will help employees be more cautious when working with hazardous chemicals, and hopefully prevent future injuries.
Causes of Chemical Burns
Chemical burns are caused by acids or bases that land on bodily tissue. Burns can develop through eyes, skin, inhalation, and ingestion. Studies show that exposure to hazardous chemicals is more common in lower socioeconomic classes, such as industrial workers or farmers. Exposure can also occur for employees who work in chemical fabrication, mining, medicine, and any other related professional fields. The severity of the burn depends on a variety of factors, such as the pH level, concentration, length of contact time, volume, and physical form of the chemical agent.
A popular building material that can cause severe chemical burns is cement. Wet cement contains a pH level that can reach an alkaline level of 12 within minutes. If wet cement seeps through a worker’s boots or clothing, chemical burns could travel deep within the skin and into the tissue, ultimately causing damage to the muscles and bones.
There are other instances where some chemical agents do not react immediately and could, therefore, cause burns hours after exposure. These agents include hydrofluoric acid, sulfur mustard, and dimethyl-sulfate.
If wet cement lands on a worker’s skin, some initial symptoms include redness, swelling, and itching. If workers swallow cement, they could experience drooling, difficulty swallowing, or vomiting. If workers inhale cement, they could experience coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms depend on the type of chemical burn. Bleaching, skin darkening, burning sensations, coughing blood, and tissue necrosis are all symptoms of chemical burn injuries.
When a worker receives a chemical burn on the skin, immediately rinsing the infected area with tap water is an effective way to decrease the severity of the injury. Rinsing should be completed within ten minutes of exposure. This task could take several hours to remove the chemicals and neutralize the area entirely. After rinsing, the injured victim must go to the emergency room for further treatment. This process is known as irrigation. Other forms of irrigation depend on the type of chemical agent and how long the injured victim was exposed.
Medical treatment varies for individuals depending on the type of chemical agent, how long the exposure lasted, which body part was exposed, the depth of the burn, and the injured victim’s age. There aren’t many topical treatments or other medications used to treat chemical burns. The most effective treatment is getting to a surgical team that can provide immediate surgical care.
Companies have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees. However, a lot of chemical burn injuries occur due to negligence and disregard for safety precautions. At Los Angeles Injury Group, we understand how traumatic and painful chemical burns can be. We believe if a worker receives a chemical burn at the workplace, then that worker deserves to receive compensation for current and future medical expenses. If you, or someone you love, received a chemical burn injury at the workplace, call (310) 954-7248 for a free consultation.