Hydrofluoric acid is used in many industrial processes. From refining oil to working metal, hydrofluoric acid plays an integral role. Whilst it is useful in this capacity, it can be extremely dangerous and even deadly if it comes into contact with the human body. For this reason, it is vital to know what the first aid procedure is to treat a hydrofluoric burn. After all, it can be the difference between life and death.
Because interaction with hydrofluoric acid can be potentially fatal, it is important that the first people to react to the injury are properly kitted out with appropriate personal protective equipment. Once necessary precautions have been taken, the first responders need to assess the affected person for any kind of response. If they are unresponsive, carry out advanced life support, and call an ambulance as quickly as possible. If the patient is breathing, administer 100% oxygen.
Even before any hospital treatment, if the patient is responsive, you should immediately attempt to decontaminate the patient. In the first instance, the affected area should be doused in fast flowing water for a maximum of one minute.
Once the full minute has expired, any contaminated items of clothing should be removed. Whilst wearing neoprene gloves, massage calcium gluconate gel into the affected area. Continue applying gel and massaging the affected area until fifteen minutes after the pain in the affected area is relieved. The application of C gel can take place en route to the hospital if necessary.
How does C Gel work?
Calcium gluconate gel reacts very quickly with hydrofluoric acid to form harmless non-toxic calcium fluoride. The harmful free fluoride ions that are responsible for penetrating the skin and destroying the tissues deep within the body are neutralised by the addition of calcium gluconate.
Arriving at the hospital
Upon arriving at the hospital, you should ensure that both the nature and severity of the burn are clear to the receiving doctor. Also, if possible, the Manufacturer’s Safety Data sheet should accompany the patient to the hospital, to alert the receiving doctor of all the chemicals involved.
If the extent of the contamination is excessive, you need to be aware of the possibility that it has been inhaled inadvertently. In which case, administer 100% oxygen. Additionally, all affected clothing and equipment should be disposed of.
You need to be conscious of the fact that the onset of pain from interaction with hydrofluoric acid can be delayed drastically. Because the acid interferes with nerve function, small burns might not be painful initially. That is why it is important everyone involved goes home with a tube of calcium gluconate gel for pain relief.