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When will these avoidable deaths stop?

There is once again sad news in the headlines as yet another fatal scalding case makes its way to court. The HSE has reported that a Middlesex care home company has been fined £100,000 and ordered to pay costs of £50,000, after an elderly resident at the Old Wall Cottage Nursing Home died in August 2011 from scalding injuries.

Guildford Crown Court heard how an 89-year-old woman (who was in the personal care of two employees from European Healthcare Group Plc), received scalding injuries that were so severe she later died in hospital. The Health and Safety Executive investigation into the incident, found that the bathroom taps were not adjusted to limit the temperature of the water to a safe level for bathing and showering.

European Healthcare Group Plc, of Windsor Street, Uxbridge, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector Michelle Canning said after the hearing: “All healthcare premises have a legal duty to control the risks of scalding injuries from bathing or showering and there is guidance that is well established and simple to implement.”

 Scalding is 100% avoidable, but yet the amount of scalding incidents isn’t falling fast enough. Care homes and healthcare settings are particularly vulnerable. Not only do older people have thinner skin, making them more susceptible to burns, but water has to be stored at high temperatures to kill legionella. Thermostatic mixing valves as well as adequate training should be in place across all healthcare facilities to keep patients, clients and staff safe from burns.

The CIPHE has been working with other organisations, such as the Bathroom Manufacturers Association to help promote campaigns such as ‘Hot Water Burns Like Fire’ (http://www.hotwaterburns.org). It also has information on avoiding scalding, which can be found here: http://www.ciphe.org.uk/consumer/safe-water-campaign/hot-water-scalds/

If you are a facilities manager, plumber (or worried family member) who needs to know more technical information about keeping people safe in healthcare environments read https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hot-and-cold-water-supply-storage-and-distribution-systems-for-healthcare-premises

Finally, why not test your knowledge on hot water safety by completing our short survey – https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LGVFP3R