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Scalding and burning

Risks from hot water and hot surfaces

The health and social care sector often provides care and services for individuals who may be vulnerable to risks from hot water or surfaces. Those at risk include children, older people, people with reduced mental capacity, reduced mobility, a sensory impairment, or people who cannot react appropriately, or quickly enough, to prevent injury.

Risk of scalding

Health and social care settings have increased water temperatures for a number of reasons including the need to satisfy hot water demand, efficient running of the boiler and controlling the risk from Legionella bacteria. High water temperatures (particularly temperatures over 44°C) can create a scalding risk to vulnerable people who use care services.

Those who are vulnerable to the risk may be in hospitals and other care settings, care homes, social services premises and special schools. The risk of scalding/burning should also be assessed in community facilities such as hostels, or staffed and sheltered housing, where vulnerable people may be at risk.
Many accidents involving scalding have been fatal and have mainly occurred during bathing or showering. Where vulnerable people are at risk from scalding during whole body immersion, water temperatures must not exceed 44°C.  Any precautions taken should not introduce other risks, eg from Legionella bacteria.

Risk of burn injuries

Serious injuries and fatalities have also been caused by contact with hot pipes or radiators. Where there is a risk of a vulnerable person sustaining a burn from a hot surface, then the surface should not exceed 43°C when the system is running at the maximum design output.  Precautions may include insulation or providing suitable covers.

Further information

Updated 2013-07-03