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Occupational chemical burns and workers’ compensation

People who have jobs in the industrial sector, as well as those who farm for a living, are most at risk for occupational chemical burns.

For example, perhaps you work for a company that produces cleaning products, and you suffer a painful burn to your fingers. What are your next steps, and are you eligible for workers’ compensation benefits?

Chemical burns

Chemical burns result from exposure to organic compounds, alkali or acid. They are less common than other types of burns but are more capable of causing progressive damage to tissues.

If the injury is only to the top layer of skin, it is a first-degree, or superficial burn. Injury to the underlying layer of skin is a dermal or partial thickness injury, and if the burn reaches the subcutaneous tissue, or third layer of skin, it is a full thickness injury.

Symptoms

The severity of a chemical burn depends on the following:

  • How long the chemical is in contact with your skin
  • The amount of the substance as well as its strength
  • Whether the form is gas, liquid or solid
  • Whether the chemical comes in contact with any cuts or wounds on your body

Common symptoms include redness, blackened or dead skin, numbness, a burning sensation or pain in the affected area.

Next steps

If possible, first aid should begin at once. You must rinse your fingers under running water for 10 to 20 minutes to remove the chemical from your skin. Next, loosely wrap the affected area with a dressing or clean cloth, notify your supervisor of the chemical burn and seek immediate medical assistance.

Once a doctor classifies your burn, you will know the extent of the injury. Depending on the severity, treatment could include a course of antibiotics, debridement of the dead tissue or possible skin grafting.

Eligibility for benefits

An occupational chemical burn should qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits; you have a right to expect coverage for your medical expenses plus wage benefits. Do not hesitate to rely on an advocate for assistance in filing the claim. You do not want to risk making a mistake in the process because the insurance company could use that error to issue a denial.

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