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Q

My job requires me to work with several caustic chemicals. What should I do if my co-workers or I suffer a chemical burn?

A

Did you know that you don’t have to work in a lab to suffer a workplace chemical burn? Substances like paint stripper, cleaning products, dry cement, battery acid, fertilizer, and pool chemicals can cause serious damage if they touch the skin or eyes. If these chemicals are swallowed, they can cause severe internal injuries and even death.

If someone you work with suffers a chemical burn, time is critical. The amount of damage will depend on how long the chemical stays on the skin. You need to act fast.

Immediate Action to Take After a Chemical Burn

  • Call 911.
  • Take steps to protect yourself. You can’t help if you are also injured. Put on gloves and any other necessary safety gear before approaching the burn victim.
  • Rinse the burn area with cool running water for at least 20 minutes or until help arrives. Make sure the water doesn’t flow onto your body or other parts of the victim’s body. As you rinse, cut off any clothing or jewelry.
  • Ask someone to read you the instructions on the label. Follow these instructions.
  • Do not try to neutralize the burn unless your workplace has a product designated to neutralize the specific chemical the worker was exposed to. You do not want to cause a chemical reaction that worsens the burn.
  • Do not put aloe, antibiotics or any other medication on the burn.
  • If the burn is small, you may wrap it with sterile gauze or a clean, dry cloth.
  • Go to the emergency room. You may still have some of the chemical on your skin.
  • Follow up with your personal physician or a doctor who specializes in burns. Chemical burns may be worse than they appear at first.

 

If someone you work with swallows a chemical, check their mouth for cuts or burns. Call the American Association of Poison Control, toll-free, at 1-800-222-1222. Follow the directions that you are given. If the victim is unconscious, dial 911.

Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo, P.C., help injured workers get the compensation they need to cover their medical bills and make ends meet during their recovery. To learn more about your right to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation, please call 888-807-WORK (9675).