How to Protect Yourself from Chemical Burns

Chemical burns are just as serious as heat burns. They present a risk in any location where chemicals are used, and any kind of chemical burns treatment should be immediate. Protective clothing, a chemical burn treatment kit and a clear routine for how to treat acid burns should be common on any site handling chemicals.

Here’s a guide to the risks of chemical burns, how to protect yourself and others, and tips for dealing with burns, especially in the workplace.

safety equipment inclduing a hard hat glasses and gloves laying next to a pad that reads chemical safety assessment

Who is at risk of chemical burns?

Chemical burns present a risk to anyone who deals with chemicals and acid that burns the skin. This can be at home, at school or at work. Some of the most common types of chemicals responsible for caustic burns are:

  • Car battery acid
  • Bleach and other household cleaners
  • Ammonia
  • Drain cleaner
  • Chlorination products for swimming pools
  • Paint thinner
  • Fertilizers

Some workplaces present a bigger risk of chemical burns than others. People working in manufacturing, agriculture and construction often handle chemicals, meaning the risk of a chemical burn on the skin is often higher in these types of work environments. However, the risk of caustic burns, acid burns or Sodium Hydroxide burns is present in any job where chemicals are used.

How to prevent a chemical burn on the skin

The more someone is in contact with a chemical or acid that burns skin, the more chance there is that they can suffer a burn. Despite this, there are many ways to reduce the risks of getting burnt in the first place by taking simple steps to ensure chemical protection.

Accidents and carelessness are the biggest causes of chemical burns, so simply taking care whenever you are handling chemicals is the best burn protection you can employ. At work, if you routinely handle caustic products, you should be provided with chemical protective clothing or a chemical protection suit. If you are using chemicals or acid that burns skin in the home, store them safely and always keep them well out of the reach of children.

To prevent acid burns or Sodium Hydroxide burns in the workplace, you should:

  • Store chemicals correctly in a safe place
  • Store chemicals in their original protective containers
  • Ensure staff receive the correct training for dealing with burns from chemicals
  • Use proper safety equipment and chemical protection clothing when handling chemicals (our workwear and protective suits are designed to be flame resistant as well as repel chemicals like Sulphuric Acid and Sodium Hydroxide)

How to treat chemical burns

Chemical burns must be taken very seriously, even if they do not initially look serious. A chemical burn on the face or body can have lifelong consequences and requires immediate chemical burn treatment. Whatever the size of the chemical burn on the hands or any other part of the body, you should always aim to rinse the area of skin under cool water for up to 20 minutes and remove any clothing or jewellery that has been contaminated with acid that burns the skin. Then wrap the injury in a sterile dressing such as a bandage.

If the burn is not too serious, you might simply need to take a painkiller for the pain. However, if the chemical burn is more serious, either call an ambulance or go to A&E. Always go to the hospital with a chemical burn on the face, eyes, hands or groin, or on a joint like your elbow or knee.

In hospitals, other chemical burn treatments are used for more serious conditions. These could include antibiotics, medications or creams for burns to reduce itching, and even skin grafting.

Here’s what the NHS says about how to treat chemical burns.

Take care when handling chemicals or acid that burns skin

Chemical burns can be incredibly serious. If you handle chemicals in the workplace, make sure correct procedures are followed and the right chemical protective clothing is worn. If you are using chemicals at home, make sure you take great care with them, including everyday cleaning products, to reduce the risk of chemical burns on your hands or other parts of the body.

And if you are unlucky enough to get burnt, always treat any chemical burns immediately and seek medical help as soon as possible.

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