OSHA estimated that about 32 million workers work with or may be exposed to one or more chemical hazards, situations which can create serious health problems. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 3,500 workers suffered non-fatal chemical burns in 2012 that caused them to miss work, usually for at least several days and sometimes for an extended period of time. Those most likely to suffer occupational chemical burns, says the BLS, are maintenance and repair workers. Others are maids, housekeepers and janitors; heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers; truck and diesel mechanics; and workers at labs and processing plants.
Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, has been helping the hardworking people of Maryland and the District of Columbia since 1988. Before Steve became a lawyer, he was an organizer and business agent for the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, Local #7, in Baltimore. He knows how hard it can be for a family if the breadwinner suffers an occupational injury due to an employer’s negligence. If you or your loved one was burned by chemicals in the workplace, call Steve at (410) 625-4878 for a free consultation.
Chemical burns are burns to internal or external organs of the body caused mainly by chemical substances that are strong acids or alkalies (also called bases). Chemical burns are usually the result of an accident such as a spill or splash or the mixing together of incompatible substances.
Some of the acids commonly found in occupational settings that can cause chemical burns are:
- Sulphuric acid – Found in toilet and drain cleaners, metal cleaners, battery fluid and fertilizer manufacturing
- Nitric acid – Used in engraving, metal refining, electroplating and fertilizer manufacture
- Hydrofluoric acid – Used for rust removal, glass etching, dental work and as a refrigerant
- Hydrochloric acid – Used in metal refining and cleaning and manufacturing dye
- Phosphoric acid – Found in metal cleaners, rustproofers, detergents, and fertilizer plants
Common alkaline chemicals include the following:
- Sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide – In drain and oven cleaners
- Sodium and calcium hypochlorite – Found in bleach and pool chlorination materials
- Gaseous anhydrous ammonia – In fertilizing manufacture
- Phosphates – A component of detergents and cleaners.
In addition, certain elemental metals (lithium, potassium, sodium and magnesium) can cause chemical burns.
Injuries caused by chemical exposure
The injuries caused by chemical burns can be serious. While some contacts may cause surface burns or rash, more severe injuries such as second or third degree burns, disfigurement and scarring can result, depending on the chemical involved and the length of exposure to the dangerous substance. Chemicals which splash or create fumes can burn the eyes, causing changes in vision or permanent blindness.
Treatment of chemical burns
Depending on the severity of the burn, treatment may include antibiotic wound care, debridement (cleaning or removal of dirt and dead tissue), skin grafts (replacing damaged skin with healthy skin from another part of the body), specialized bandages and IV fluids.
Burn patients may require treatment at a specialized burn center such as the Johns Hopkins Burn Center for adults (Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore) or for children (Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center, also in Baltimore).
Employer negligence may cause chemical burns
Workers are entitled to safe workplaces. For jobs and locations where chemical exposure is likely, OSHA may require employers to institute safety measures and supply workers with personal protective equipment. Employers who fail to comply with OSHA standards or who otherwise expose workers to the dangers of chemical burns may be found negligent and held liable for the damages caused.
If you were the victim of a chemical burn in the workplace, ask yourself these questions:
- Were the chemicals properly labeled?
- Were you instructed on the safe use of the chemicals?
- Were you provided with eye protection, gloves, rubber boots, protective aprons or other shield?
- Did the area have a washing station and first aid readily available?
- Is the machinery routinely inspected and kept in good repair?
Get help from The Injury Lawyer
When you have suffered a chemical burn due to a workplace injury, you may be entitled to money damages through a workers’ compensation claim. The workers’ compensation laws can be pretty confusing; Steve Heisler knows the requirements of the system and can help you file a successful claim. In addition, if your accident was due to negligence or recklessness, you may also be able to file a claim against a third party (like a subcontractor or a materials supplier) to recover compensation.
A serious Maryland chemical burn can leave you in pain and with long-term consequences. Don’t take a chance with your family’s financial security — contact The Offices of Steven H. Heisler by calling (410) 625-4878 or filling out our website inquiry form.