An abrasion is a type wound caused by unprotected skin coming into contact with a rough surface, a scenario that can happen in virtually any type of facility in any kind of industry: someone falling on a rough surface and scraping their knee, someone scraping their hand while trying to catch their fall, a constant motion of an operator’s arm contacting with a rough machine, etc.
Abrasions are classified by degree:
- A first-degree abrasion is an injury to only the epidermis (the outer most layer of the skin).
- A second-degree abrasion also damages the epidermis as well as the dermis (the layer of skin just below the epidermis), which may result in minor bleeding.
- The most severe kind of abrasion is a third-degree abrasion in which the subcutaneous layer (just under the epidermis and dermis layers of the skin). Third-degree avulsions are also referred to as an avulsion, a traumatic abrasion that removes all layers of the skin.
Minor abrasions (ones only affecting the epidermis) probably will not bleed or scar, requiring little to no medical attention. All abrasions, no matter the severity, will need to be free from debris and cleaned thoroughly with water. It is important all facilities and workplaces have the necessary first aid kit and it is stocked with the right supplies. Topical antibiotics should be applied to prevent infection and if necessary, the wound should be dressed to keep it from drying out.
Following a severe abrasion, safety managers will need to file an accident report. As part of the report, safety managers will conduct a risk assessment of the incident. Interviews with witnesses and an evaluation of hazards should answer key questions: Can whatever caused the abrasion be immediately removed from the facility? Would better training have prevented the incident? Would providing the right size safety gloves have adequately protected the worker?
Even with a minor abrasion, safety managers should complete a near miss report and follow the same procedure. By doing so, the most effective preventative measures can be chosen to prevent any future abrasions.