Topics explained – Burns and scalds

Burns and scalds are serious risks in the hospitality industry and account for many serious injuries.

Burns can be caused by:

  • electricity
  • fire or hot surfaces
  • chemicals
  • light/sun
  • radiation
  • friction.

Degrees of burns

Each burn has a different severity and is measured in degrees 1-3.

First-degree burns

A first-degree burn is a superficial burn which only affects the outer layer of skin, such as a mild sunburn. In this scenario, your burn site may be:

  • red
  • painful
  • dry.

Blisters generally are not present with first-degree burns.

Second-degree burns

Second-degree burns are often caused by scalds from hot liquids (such as boiling water, steam, or oil heated for cooking), flames or when you touch hot objects. The burn site will appear:

  • red
  • blistered
  • wet and shiny
  • swollen and painful.

These burns will often be at risk of infection.

Third-degree burns

Third-degree burns are the most serious burns, as your outer and inner layers of skin are destroyed. They may also damage your underlying bones, muscles and tendons. Third-degree burns are usually caused by:

  • scalding liquid
  • prolonged contact with a hot object
  • corrosive chemicals
  • contact with fire or electricity.

In this situation, the burned skin will appear:

  • stiff and white
  • black
  • yellow or brown
  • dry and leathery
  • painless because the nerve endings are burned.

In order to prevent infection, skin grafts, surgery and intensive care may be required.

It is recommended that both second and third-degree burns be assessed by a doctor or a qualified health practitioner.

Notifiable incidents of burns

You need to notify us if a burn or scald sustained at a workplace needs critical or intensive care.

Controlling risks

It is important that you know how to prevent burns and to administer first aid.

Employers, in consultation with their workers, need to assess the hazards that may result in a burn or scald and introduce measures to minimise the likelihood of burns and scalds occurring.

You can minimise the risk of burns and scalding by:

  • ensuring floor surfaces are kept clean and proper enclosed slip resistant footwear is worn.
    • slippery floors increase the risk of a worker making contact with hot food, hot oil or hot objects like cooking pots
  • placing and taking note of warning signs or stickers near hot equipment or surfaces
  • making sure cooking oil is cooled to a safe handling temperature before being drained from a deep fryer
  • incorporating a gravity-feed chute from the deep fryer to an external receptacle to eliminate the need to handle hot cooking oil waste
  • using long-handled baskets and automatic food-lowering devices for deep fryers
  • covering equipment which contains hot fat or fluids, when not in use
  • training workers in the use of espresso machines or deep frying food and following safe working practices
  • implementing routine safety checks such as checking deep fryers and grills are turned off before closing time
  • wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as heat resistant gloves and aprons
  • training workers in preferred techniques for handling hot items such as
    • opening doors and lids of steam heated equipment away from the body
    • keeping saucepan or pot handles pointing away from the edge of a stove and making sure the handles are not over hotplates
    • using a waiter’s cloth to protect arms while carrying hot plates or trays
    • removing all utensils from pans
    • warning serving staff or customers if plates are hot.
  • installing windows in the kitchen door to help prevent accidents involving workers carrying hot food, beverages or plates. Alternatively, provide separate entrance and exit doors
  • redesigning the kitchen so work areas are away from heat sources.