What should workers know about chemical burns?

Many job duties involve using chemicals. When you are doing this type of job, you must follow proper safety protocol. However, not everyone is trained to do this nor are all workers given the protective equipment that they need to remain safe.

When a worker is injured while using a chemical, it could lead to a chemical burn. These can be serious injuries that take considerable time to heal. They can be caused by bases or acids, so proper precautions are necessary no matter what type of substance is being used.

What are the signs that a chemical burn occurred?

If the chemical comes into contact with your skin, you will likely notice that the area is red and irritated. It will probably hurt, but can also feel numb. If the chemical was an acid, you might notice that the affected skin is dead or blackened. If any chemical splashes into your eye, you might have visual changes or a loss of vision in the affected eye. If you accidentally swallow a chemical, you may experience a headache, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, seizures, coughing or muscle twitches.

What happens when a chemical burn occurs?

One of the most important things to do is to get the chemical off the skin. This must be done carefully because some chemicals might react more intensely if they come into contact with water. If it is safe to do so, the area must be rinsed for at least 10 minutes, but chemical burns to the eye require at least 20 minutes of flushing with water.

Because clothing and jewelry can hold the chemical against the skin, those items should be removed in the area of the burn. If possible, the area should be covered with a sterile dressing or clean cloth after it is rinsed.

You also need to seek emergency medical care for the burn. Even if you don't think this is necessary, it is a good idea because you will be able to get the treatment that is best for your case. This can include anything from over-the-counter medications to skin grafting, depending on the area, severity and depth of the burn.

What should injured workers know?

Injured workers in North Carolina should remember that they can file for workers' compensation benefits. This enables them to have the medical care coverage to handle their doctors' visits. If the burn is severe and they can't return to work immediately, wage replacement benefits might be in order.

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