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How Can Care Homes Prevent Scalding Risks?

23 May 2023

It goes without saying that in a care home, ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your service users is paramount. That is why it’s crucial to remain up to date with your water system maintenance. 

Among the various risks that need to be mitigated against, such as the risk of contamination and infection, are scalding incidents. 

Scalding incidents can happen in various settings within care homes, including bathrooms, kitchens and utility rooms. Failure to protect against scalding risks can result in loss of life and substantial fines; not something to be taken lightly. 

The key to safeguarding your service users and creating a safe living environment is to take preventative measures, such as thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) installation and regular risk assessments. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of TMVs and how they can effectively reduce scalding risks. 

 

What is a scald? 

A scald is a type of burn injury that occurs when the skin is exposed to hot liquids or steam. Typically, scalds are caused by contact with hot water from taps or other bathroom or kitchen outlets. 

Many people think that for water or steam to be hot enough to scald someone, it has to be at boiling temperature. However, scalding can occur from water at temperatures between 38-45c, which are temperatures a bath or shower could feasibly reach if a TMV fails. 

While scalds are not an enormous risk for a healthy person, they can be particularly dangerous and potentially life-threatening for vulnerable people, such as young children, older adults, and people with disabilities or reduced mobility. 

In 2015, Birdsgrove care home in Bracknell, Berkshire was involved in a scalding incident that unfortunately resulted in the death of one of their 93-year-old service users. 

The incident occurred when the victim, Ms Norris, requested hot water for her bath. It took several minutes before her carer noticed that the water was at a scalding temperature. 

The care home was later found to have cut corners in their water system maintenance to save costs, falsifying their water temperature records and the record of the servicing of their thermostatic mixing valves. 

Both the care home manager and the carer faced legal prosecution for failing their duty of care, and Birdsgrove care home was closed in 2016. 

Tragically, this incident could have easily been prevented with adequate TMV installation and management. 

 

What is a thermostatic mixing valve?

A TMV is a valve that is designed to control and maintain safe water temperatures by blending hot and cold water to reach a pre-set temperature. 

The valve acts as a barrier that prevents excessively hot water from reaching outlets, such as taps or shower heads, compensating whenever there are fluctuations. 

To prevent scalding incidents the valve will automatically adjust the water blend if the temperature becomes too hot. 

 

What’s the best way to mitigate against scald risks?

While it’s common for care groups to allow each of their services to handle matters such as their water hygiene independently, this presents its own set of risks. 

The first is that the responsibility lands on certain individuals who may not perform their duties to the extent that they should, as seen in the case at Birdsgrove care home. While no one wants to think about a member of their team not carrying out their due diligence, the possibility is always there. 

The second risk is that, due to each care home managing their water systems independently, there is no collective record of assessments or remedial work across the entire care group, leaving you open to the risk of legal action in the event of an incident.

The best answer to this is to secure an ongoing maintenance contract with a water hygiene supplier, who will install TMVs and manage your water systems for you, shouldering the responsibility of keeping your service users safe. 

 

What are the benefits of an ongoing support contract with a water hygiene supplier?

Regular water system management 

A water hygiene supplier will carry out all the necessary assessments and maintenance, such as temperature checks and TMV installation that are needed to ensure that you are providing the safest environment for your service users. Any issues will be resolved through remedial work, preventing incidents such as contamination or scalding. 

 

Maintain important records 

Any assessments or maintenance will be kept on record which means that in the event of an incident, you will have the evidence to prove that your service took all the necessary steps it could to prevent it. 

 

Reduce responsibility

The risk of your services facing any legal repercussions if anything goes wrong is significantly reduced, because the responsibility is on the water hygiene supplier who has carried out your system maintenance. 

 

Mitigate risks

The most obvious benefit is that you can rest assured that your service users are as safe as you can make them. Any issues with your systems, such as faulty TMVs will be addressed immediately, preventing any life-threatening incidents. 

While the cost of an ongoing support and maintenance contract may deter some care groups, the alternative is the even higher cost of legal fees and other potential consequences if you do not adequately manage your water system. 

 

Ongoing water system support from H2O Hygiene 

At H2O Hygiene, we understand the severity of a poorly managed water system and the risks it poses to your service users.

That’s why we’re here to offer an extensive range of water hygiene services and support to ensure your care homes are the safest they can be. 

If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team, we’re here to help. 

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