Workplace fires often occur without warning. In many cases, workers may not be aware of a fire already happening in a building. As a result, they may not be prepared to evacuate fast enough to avoid a serious burn injury or fatality.
One worker recently sustained serious injuries in a business fire in College Point, Queens. The fire started in the basement of the building housing a medical supply and toy company. The blaze then quickly moved to the ground floor after oxygen tanks exploded.
Three of the responding firefighters sustained minor injuries. A store employee was also treated at a nearby hospital for serious injuries, which left the employee in critical but stable condition.
Risk factors in workplace fires
Workplace fires are often caused by electrical defects in the building. These include loose or damaged wires, defective plugs, old equipment plugged in for too long, and overloaded sockets.
The risk of a fire increases when combustible materials are positioned close to an electrical defect. These can include carpets, stacks of paper, flammable liquids, and other materials that can cause a fire to spread quickly.
Other frequent causes of workplace fires include lightning strikes, improperly discarded cigarettes and unattended cooking equipment.
Common workplace fire injuries
People often sustain serious injuries in workplace fires. Some of the most common - and most serious - injuries include:
- Burns: Burn injuries can range from first to fourth degree burns, depending on the damage to tissue and level of exposure to heat. Severe burns can result in permanent damage to affected areas, as well as creating a risk of potentially fatal bacterial infections.
- Smoke inhalation: Inhaling smoke, especially that containing hazardous gas, can cause serious and fatal damage to the respiratory system.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning: Even if workers aren't burned or affected by smoke during a fire, they are still at risk of being poisoned by carbon monoxide, which can cause serious illness and even death.
What employers should do to protect workers
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), all workplaces should have easily accessible exits so workers can evacuate safely in the event of a fire. Employer responsibilities include ensuring that emergency exits aren't blocked, locked, or compromised by clutter or debris.
Even in small businesses, employees should be trained on fire hazards and safety measures they can take in the event of a fire. Firefighting equipment, such as fire extinguishers, are a good preparedness option. However, employees should be trained to properly use them.
If you have sustained fire-related injures on the job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. To learn more, contact the attorneys at Pasternack, Tilker, Ziegler, Walsh, Stanton & Romano LLP today. We have experience handling cases involving burn injuries and fires and explosions. We'll gladly help you navigate the claims process.