Procedures

First Aid Treatment for Burns including Chemical Burns - Procedures

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1. Purpose and Objectives

These procedures has been developed to reduce the risk of severe burn injuries occurring due to accidental thermal and chemical exposures.

2. Definitions, Terms, Acronyms

SDS - Safety Data Sheet

PPE - Personal Protective Equipment

Dyscrasias - blood disorders e.g. anaemia

Arrhythmias - Abnormal heart rhythm

3. Procedures Scope/Coverage

This procedure applies to all staff, students, visitors and volunteers who undertake tasks with the potential for exposure to hazardous chemicals or extreme cold or heat sources.

4. Procedures Statement

Burns can be extremely dangerous and in some cases fatal. All persons at UQ undertaking procedures involving hazardous chemicals, extreme cold or heat sources must be trained in the first aid management of chemical or thermal burns.

5. Standard First Aid Procedure for Burns

The following first aid procedure applies to most burns including chemical burns;

  • Cool burnt area under continuously running cold tap water for twenty minutes (approximately 15°C).
  • Do not apply ice to any burn.
  • Do not apply any lotions or creams to burns.
  • Cover burn with a sterile non-adherent dressing. If not available, use plastic wrap or a clean wet cloth - do not wrap circumferentially.
  • Once first aid has been applied, seek medical advice for any chemical burn and take the chemical SDS with you.
  • Seek medical advice for full skin thickness burn, any electrical burn, any burn affecting airway, hands, face, eyes or genitals, or any burn greater in size than a 20 cent piece.

6. Exceptions to Standard First Aid Procedure for Burns

6.1 Cold thermal burns

Cryogens are substances which produce very low temperatures and are often used in laboratory settings at the University. Cryogens such as liquid nitrogen can rapidly freeze human tissue resulting in a cold 'burn' injury on contact with exposed skin. If clothing becomes saturated with a cryogenic liquid, frostbite can occur. Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment is therefore very important when handling cryogenic substances as PPE can be quickly removed if a spill occurs.

  • Warm affected area in lukewarm water. Do not use hot water or radiant heat sources.
  • Apply a sterile non-adherent dressing (if not available, use plastic wrap or a clean wet cloth).
  • Once first aid has been applied, seek medical advice if the injury is a full skin thickness burn or for any burn affecting airway, hands, face, eyes or genitals, or any burn greater in size than a 20 cent piece.

6.2 Phenol

Exposure to phenol by any route can cause systemic poisoning and be life threatening. Symptoms of acute phenol poisoning may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, blood dyscrasias, profuse sweating, hypotension, heart arrhythmias, breathing difficulties and central nervous system effects such as the development of seizures and coma. Symptoms may be delayed for up to 18 hours after exposure. Rescuers should wear protective clothing and gloves while treating someone whose skin is contaminated with phenol.

Phenol is mildly acidic but causes chemical burns through its ability to denature protein. Although phenol is moderately soluble in water, it is readily absorbed into the skin and binds to skin lipids making removal with water a protracted process. Phenol should be first wiped off the skin using inert compounds containing fat soluble components prior to washing with soap and water.

Refer to PPL 2.70.24 for further guidance on working safely with phenol.

6.2.1 For phenol spills on skin

  • Remove contaminated clothing and begin decontamination as soon as possible.
  • Mop affected skin polyethylene glycol (PEG) 300 or 400 (which can be diluted to 50% for easier application) to remove dermal contamination.
  • If PEG 300 or 400 is not readily available, PEG/methylated spirit mixture, glycerol, methylated spirit, olive oil or vegetable oil can also be used.
  • Do not use mineral oil such as liquid paraffin. Mineral oils are unsuitable as they do not have both lipid and water-soluble groups present in their structure and will not be effective in removing phenol from the skin. The presence of both fat and water soluble groups in glycols, glycerol and vegetable oil allow them to extract phenol residue from the skin surface.
  • After decontamination, skin should be gently washed with soap and water for 20 minutes.
  • If no suitable decontamination substance is available, skin should be irrigated using a high density shower and the skin washed with soap and water until a suitable decontamination agent is sourced or until medical assistance arrives.
  • Call UQ Security and seek urgent medical assistance. A copy of the SDS for phenol should accompany the casualty.

6.2.2 For phenol eye exposure

  • If the casualty has contact lenses*, assist the casualty in removing contact lenses (ensure all hands assisting removal are not contaminated with phenol). * Wearing contact lenses is not recommended when working with some hazardous chemicals. Refer to PPL 2.30.04 Eye Protection in Laboratories for further guidance on wearing contact lenses in laboratory environments.
  • Immediately hold eyelids apart and flush eyes continuously with copious amounts of cool flowing water for at least 20 minutes.
  • Ensure complete irrigation of the eye by keeping eyelids apart and moving the eyelids by occasionally lifting the upper and lower lids.
  • Call UQ Security and seek urgent medical assistance. A copy of the SDS for phenol should accompany casualty.

6.3 Hydrofluoric acid

Hydrofluoric acid is extremely corrosive. Burns can be penetrating and very painful. Absorption of the chemical can lead to life threatening systemic toxicity. Contact with very small amounts of high concentration acid can cause life threatening arrhythmias. Treatment is designed to neutralise the fluoride ions and prevent metabolic poisoning.

Refer to PPL 2.70.18 for further guidance on working safely with hydrofluoric acid.

6.3.1 For hydrofluoric acid spills on skin

  • Remove contaminated clothing as soon as possible. Any clothing that has to be pulled over the head should be cut off.
  • Irrigate contaminated areas with copious volumes of water for at least one minute.
  • Immediately apply calcium gluconate gel (2.5%) on and around the burn. Continue applying to the burned skin for a minimum of 30 minutes and for as long as the pain persists.
  • For burns to the hand place the gel in a latex glove and put this on the affected hand. Or cover the area with a gel soaked dressing and lightly bandage.
  • Call UQ Security and seek urgent medical assistance, send calcium gluconate gel with patient, repeat application during transit to medical assistance as necessary.
  • A copy of the SDS for hydrofluoric acid should accompany the casualty.

6.3.2 For hydrofluoric acid eye exposure

  • If casualty has contact lenses*, assist casualty in removing contact lenses (ensure all hands assisting removal are not contaminated).* Wearing contact lenses is not recommended when working with some hazardous chemicals. Refer to PPL 2.30.04 Eye Protection in Laboratories for further guidance on wearing contact lenses in laboratory environments.
  • Immediately flush the affected eye thoroughly for at least 30 minutes with water whilst eyelids held apart.
  • Do not apply calcium gluconate gel to eyes.
  • Call UQ Security and seek urgent medical assistance, continue flushing eye during transport to hospital if possible.
  • A copy of the SDS for hydrofluoric acid should accompany the casualty.

7. Contacts for Further Information

Occupational Health Nurse Advisor:

ohs@uq.edu.au

Occupational Hygiene Advisors:

ohs@uq.edu.au

Custodians
Director, Occupational Health and Safety
Mr Jim Carmichael
Custodians
Director, Occupational Health and Safety
Mr Jim Carmichael