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Workplace Burns and Employer Liability

Posted in Uncategorized on February 2, 2024

National Burn Awareness Week is in February, so there’s no better time than now for us to discuss the implications of a workplace burn injury and employer liability. Unfortunately, studies show that workplace burn injuries “are associated with significant physical, psychological, and social challenges.” Workplace burn injury victims deserve compensation, but can an employer be held directly responsible for the incident?

Most Common Causes of Workplace Burn Injuries

As we take a moment to recognize National Burn Awareness Week in February, we also recognize that the workplace is an area where many burns occur. Some workplaces present more specific types of burn hazards than others. For example, individuals working at a new construction site face a higher risk of certain types of burns than individuals who work inside an office building. Similarly, individuals who work in a kitchen are more likely to sustain burn injuries than individuals who work in a bank.

Some of the most common causes of workplace burn injuries include:

  • Thermal burns. Hot objects, open flames, steam, and boiling liquids are common in manufacturing, food service, and construction industries, leading to contact burns, scalds, and flame burns.
  • Chemical burns. Exposure to harsh, toxic chemicals, prevalent in industries like cleaning, manufacturing, and laboratory work, can cause severe tissue damage.
  • Electrical burns. Industries involving electrical equipment, like construction and maintenance, face risks from electrical currents leading to burns upon contact.
  • Radiation burns. Workers exposed to high-energy rays, including those in welding and healthcare sectors dealing with X-rays, can suffer from radiation burns, similar to severe sunburns.

Studies that examine particular geographic areas and demographics have found that the leading causes of workplace burn injuries include fires and open flames, hot liquids and vapors, and chemicals, with fires and open flames making up the vast majority of cases.

Will an Employer Be Liable for the Injury?

Determining whether an employer can be held liable after an on-the-job burn injury occurs can be challenging. There may be instances where the employer can be held responsible, and we will cover those in just a moment. However, if the employer has workers’ compensation insurance, as nearly every single employer in Arizona is required to have, this typically prohibits an injured worker from filing a lawsuit against the employer.

Arizona workers’ compensation is a no-fault type of insurance, which means individuals are able to recover these benefits regardless of who caused the burn injury, but the caveat is that the individual is not able to file a lawsuit against another person who may have caused the injury, whether that be a coworker or an employer. However, there are exceptions to this, including situations where the employer’s gross negligence or intentional actions caused the burn injury.

In the event an investigation uncovers gross negligence or intentional actions on the part of an employer or coworker caused the burn injury, it may be appropriate to file a civil personal injury lawsuit against the employer.

Generally, employers may be held directly responsible if negligence in maintaining a safe working environment is evident. This includes failing to implement safety measures, not providing necessary training, or not supplying appropriate PPE. However, liability is determined case-by-case, taking into account the circumstances of the incident and the adherence to occupational safety standards. If you’ve suffered a burn injury at work, it’s crucial to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney in Phoenix to understand your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.