Burns and scalds are common workplace injuries that can range from minor to severe. Knowing how to provide effective first aid for burns and scalds is essential in ensuring the best possible outcome for the casualty. By understanding the different degrees of burns, knowing the immediate response required, and having access to the right first aid techniques, you can make a significant difference in preventing further harm and promoting rapid recovery.

Understanding the different degrees of burns

  • Burns are classified into three degrees based on their severity: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree burns.
  • First-degree burns are superficial and only affect the outer layer of the skin. resulting in redness and mild pain.
  • Second-degree burns extend beyond the outer layer, causing blistering, severe pain, and possible swelling.
  • Third-degree burns are the most severe and can penetrate all layers of the skin, leading to charred or white-coloured skin, along with significant pain or numbness due to nerve damage.

Immediate response: What to do when a burn or scald occurs

When a burn or scald occurs, it’s essential to take immediate action in order to minimize the damage and provide relief to the casualty.

Here are the steps to follow:

Assess the situation:

Ensure that you and the injured person are in a safe environment and away from any ongoing hazards.
Remove the source of the burn or scald:
If possible, eliminate the source of heat or chemical causing the injury.

Cool the burn

For minor burns, immediately run cool, not cold, water over the affected area for at least 20 minutes. This helps to reduce pain, prevent further damage, and promote healing.

Remove any clothing or jewellery

If the burn is not sticking to the clothing, gently remove any items that may constrict the area or retain heat.

Cover the burn

Once cooled, cover the burn with a sterile non-stick dressing or cling film to protect it from infection. Do not use adhesive bandages directly on the burn.

First aid for minor burns: Using cool running water

For minor burns, one of the most effective first aid techniques is to use cool running water. Hold the injured area under cool, not cold, running water for at least 20 minutes. The cool water helps to reduce the temperature of the burned area, providing relief and preventing further damage.

Avoid using ice or iced water as it can cause further injury to the skin.

After 20 minutes, cover the burn with a sterile, non-stick dressing to protect it from infection. Over-the-counter pain relief medications, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can be taken to alleviate any pain or discomfort.

Treating severe burns: When to seek professional medical advice

Severe burns require immediate medical attention so call for emergency services.

  • While waiting for professional help to arrive, remove the source of the burn if possible.
  • Help the casualty sit or lie down but make sure the burnt tissue doesn’t touch the ground.
  • Cool the burn with cool running water.
  • If you can, carefully remove any jewellery, watches, belts, shoes or burnt clothing. But do not try to remove clothing that has stuck to the burn.
  • Cover the burn loosely with cling film or a sterile dressing to prevent infection.
  • Do not apply any creams, ointments, or home remedies to the burn, as they may interfere with medical treatment.
  • Stay with the casualty till help arrives.

Seeking professional medical advice promptly can significantly improve the chances of a successful recovery.

Preventing burns and scalds at work

Prevention is always better than cure, and this holds true for burns and scalds in the workplace. Employers have a responsibility to create a safe working environment and implement measures to prevent these types of injuries. This may include providing appropriate PPE, providing first aid training and supervision, and maintaining a clean and organized workspace.

Employees should also play an active role in their safety by following safety protocols, using any PPE that is provided, and reporting any potential hazards to their line managers.

Working together, employers and employees can create a safer work environment and reduce the risk of burns and scalds.

To summarise

A rudimentary understanding of first aid for burns and scalds can make a significant difference to the outcome of an incident.

Additionally, preventing burns and scalds through proper workplace safety measures is crucial to protecting the well-being of all staff and visitors.

Remember, prompt treatment can significantly improve the chances of a successful recovery.


Ensure your workplace is prepared for burn and scald incidents. Invest in first aid training for your employees and maintain well-equipped first aid kits. Contact us today to learn more about our accredited Emergency First Aid at Work Training Course.

Published On: January 8th, 2024