High water temperatures create a scalding risk to vulnerable people who use care services. Those at risk from scalding/burning include children, the elderly, those with reduced mental capacity, reduced mobility and anyone with sensory impairment , or who cannot react appropriately, or quickly enough, to prevent injury.
They may be in hospitals, care homes, social services premises and special schools (ie. health and social care establishments). The risk of scalding/burning should also be assessed in community facilities such as hostels, staffed and sheltered housing for the elderly, the mentally ill, and those with learning difficulties.
In recent years the implementation of appropriate temperature control arrangements has meant that the frequency of reported fatal and major injury accidents to vulnerable people who use care services has reduced considerably. For the period April 2001 to March 2006 RIDDOR statistics identified 2 fatal incidents and 8 major injuries attributable to hot water scalds in health and social care premises.
However, there have been a number of highly successful prosecutions following accidents to vulnerable people, including one instance where a company was fined £30,000 for failure to fit TMVs to a bath.
One of the main reasons given for maintaining hot water temperatures (ie above 50oC) in health and social care premises is to control legionella bacteria which can be harmful. Those particularly at risk include the elderly and those with cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory or kidney disease. Bacteria are usually found in water systems, whirlpool bathers and hydrotherapy baths.
It has been suggested that the need to control legionella bacteria and to prevent/control the risk of scalding may be in conflict with, and cause unnecessary burden to, health and social care providers. For example, some employers, particularly smaller care homes, have argued that water temperatures have been increased purely to combat the risk of legionella.
However, an increase in the risk of scalding cannot be justified as a consequence of introducing precautions against legionella.
Waterserve surveyors will carry out a risk assessment survey to identify potential scalding risks from hot water temperatures and to assess the vulnerability of all those who have access to bathing and washing facilities.
Where TMV's are already part of your water delivery system we will as part of our risk assessment survey review the documented maintenance and inspection records and make appropriate recommendations for remedial actions.