When you work on a ship, your job comes with inherent dangers. One of the most common ones is the possibility of a fire starting while at sea. Seamen easily can suffer burns while trying to put out an engine room fire or in an explosion caused by an oil leak. Or even if you come into contact with hot steam or strong acids or solvents while working on board, you can suffer a burn.
Some burns are minor; others are serious and needs months to heal. So, what should you do if you suffer a burn at sea? How can you treat it and evaluate how severe it is?
Burn first aid
Anytime you suffer a burn while at sea, you should clean the wound under cool running water for at least a few minutes. Then dry your skin, apply aloe vera lotion or moisturizer, and bandage your burn with sterilized gauze. If your burned skin blisters, don’t pop them. You should seek medical treatment onboard just to ensure you have treated your burn properly to minimize the risk of infection.
The severity of burns
You may not know right away how severe your burn is. In fact, the damage caused by more severe burns may not be evident for a day or two.
A minor burn, or first-degree burn, affects the outer layer of the skin and causes redness and pain. A second-degree burn affects both the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) and the lower layer of skin (the dermis). Second-degree burns can cause pain, swelling and blistering.
Third-degree burns are more serious, affecting the dermis and other tissues. With a third-degree burn, your skin can turn black and charred and feel numb. It can take several weeks to heal. Fourth-degree burns are the most damaging type of burn. They can affect your muscles and bones and destroy nerve endings and can take months to heal.
Seamen who receive severe burns while at work can receive compensation for their injuries because of the Jones Act. Working with an attorney with experience in maritime law can help you receive the compensation you deserve if you suffer a serious burn on the job.