To support Burn Injury Awareness Day on October 18, we asked Paul Harmer, Technical Director of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE), about being burns aware:
It may surprise you to know that hot bath water is responsible for the highest number of fatal and severe scalding injuries among young children.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), states: ‘Around 500 children, mainly under fives, are admitted to hospital and a further 2000 attend A&E departments every year as a result of bath water scalds.’
The elderly are also five times more at risk of a fatal burn or scald injury than the general population.
So with hot water scalds posing a risk from baths and showers, and contact burns regularly received from touching radiators, towel warmers and central heating pipes, what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
The saddest thing about these statistics is that they are all avoidable. In most cases, the key to keeping your family safe is to think TMV.
TMVs, or Thermostatic Mixing Valves, blend hot and cold water to a safe controlled temperature at the shower, tap or bidet outlet. They can be retrofitted to baths and bidets, meaning that even older systems don’t have to miss out.
TMVs cost as little as £30, and while they do need regular servicing, it’s a small price to pay when you look at the lifelong physical, mental and emotional pain scalding can bring. Just keep in mind that while you may want to hide them out of sight, they will need to be accessible.
When it comes to showering, a thermostatically controlled shower is the best option, so ensure the model you buy has a built-in TMV.
Most TMVs also have a failsafe mechanism, so if there is a failure with either the hot or cold water supplies the valve will close off. This allows virtually no water to pass through and so protects the user from both scalds and thermal shock (from cold water if the hot water supply fails) and at the same time highlights the fact that there is a problem with the plumbing system.
Following the death in 2012 of a 59-year-old hotel guest scalded while taking a shower, press coverage earlier this year highlighted the value of installing a TMV.
Care needs to be taken that adding TMVs does not lead to problems with microorganisms such as legionella bacteria, which can lead to Legionnaires' Disease. TMVs should be installed close to where they will be used to minimise the length of pipework the water will pass through at a reduced temperature. However, best practice would be to fit taps with a built-in TMV.
I would also always recommend running the cold water first when running a bath. If you have vulnerable people in your home, it’s worth considering installing low surface temperature radiators, or radiator covers – though this may impact on the overall efficiency of your heating system.
If you have an older home, you should absolutely consider having your plumbing systems checked out by an approved plumber to ensure they are working as efficiently and safely as possible.
You can find out more on scalding and general water safety at www.ciphe.org.uk/safe-water and, if you think now is the time to get your existing water supply system serviced or updated, I recommend you use the WaterSafe website’s search facility to find a local WaterSafe approved plumber.
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