A recent article from the Irish Injuries Board has highlighted the risks to workers of injuries from burns and scalds.
In Ireland, the Injuries Board is the state body responsible for processing personal injury claims. It conducted a piece of research and found that in the past two years alone, the number of compensation awards made for burn or scald injuries had increased by a third.
In 2011, 28 workers received compensation after being burned or scalded in the course of their work. In 2012, this figure had risen to 42. The Board highlights how painful these injuries can be, and that they can be the cause of great suffering and hardship for the injured workers.
In total, the Board reports paying out €1.33 million in compensation for burn and scald injuries over the two year period, and that the average award received was €19,066.
According to the Board, the most common causes of burn and scald injuries in Ireland include:
The Board has called on employers in Ireland to ensure they have adequate procedures in place to protect their workers from these traumatic types of injuries.
Workers in Ireland aren’t alone in facing the risk of being burned or scalded while carrying out their jobs. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive is all too often called in to investigate after workers have sustained serious, and potentially life-threatening, burns at work.
In one recently reported case, an international chemical company was found to be responsible for serious acid burns suffered by three of its workers.
The men were working at the site when nearby pipework, which was carrying 96% sulphuric acid, ruptured. The acid was forced through the hole at high pressure and the jet spray showered over the workers.
They received acid burns to their faces and but fortunately a fellow worker was able to give first aid treatment quickly, which prevented the injuries from being more severe.
The HSE’s investigation found that the company had planned to inspect this network of pipes, some of which were 50 years old, in 2008, but this hadn’t happened. The company had apparently decided it was more important to check different areas of pipework that also carried hazardous substances.
The company was found to have failed to make sure its pipework was in a safe condition and had allowed corrosion to take hold. It was fined a total of £120,000 and ordered to pay £18,023 in full costs after admitting a breach of both Section 2(1) and Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
In a separate case, a mechanic at a car salvage plant was badly burned when the inspection pit he was standing in caught fire.
The court was told that the company frequently removed liquids such as oil, coolant and fuel from vehicles so they could be used for scrap. In this case, the worker was removing fuel from a van, which was usually done by puncturing the fuel tank and allowing the fuel to drain into an open container on the floor of the pit. Sometimes workers would use an electric drill to initially puncture the fuel tank.
The investigation found that it was likely the fire was caused by a spark from the drill or an extension lead.
The worker was badly burned on his hands, legs and nose, and has so far not been able to return to work.
Multiple health and safety failings were uncovered during the accident investigation, which also found that the company did have a piece of equipment that would allow the fuel to be removed safely, but this had not been used.
The company pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002, one breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and two breaches of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. It was fined a total of £40,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 in costs.
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