Parents warned about bath water

As the weather gets cooler, it can be natural to want to turn up the water temperature in the bathroom.

However, doing this may lead your child to being scarred for life.

Hot water in baths and showers continue to seriously burn and scald small children each year.

All it takes is a split second for your child to turn the tap the wrong way.

As part of Kidsafe Burns Awareness Month, the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) is urging people to be extra vigilant around hot water in the home.

They are warning about water temperatures in bathrooms, as the weather gets cooler.

Having the water temperature set too high in bathrooms can quickly result in very serious burns.

In as little as one second, water at 68C can cause a full thickness scald.

These scalds lead to scarring for life, agonising pain, and hospitalisation.

VBA Executive Director of Operations Alison Byrne says this is why Victoria’s plumbing regulations limit heated water temperatures in bathrooms to no more than 50°C in new houses and renovations.

“It’s so important to make sure that you have the right protections in place to stop little ones from accidently turning on the wrong tap and burning themselves,” Ms Byrne said.

“The difference between 68°C and 50°C might not seem like much, but it can be the difference between a pleasant bath or scarring for life.”

Plumbing laws require a maximum temperature of 50°C at the outlets of each shower head or tap.

“This is hot enough for a shower, but not hot enough to cause severe scalding,” Ms Byrne said.

The exceptions to the 50°C requirement are places intended for children, the elderly or people with disabilities. This includes early childhood centres, schools, nursing homes or similar facilities – where the maximum hot water temperature allowed is 45°C.

Older systems (pre-August 1998) are unlikely to be fitted with tempering valves.  But there are various ways of reducing the temperature of the water outlets, depending on the type of hot water system.

The VBA recommends talking to a licensed or registered plumber. They are the only people who can install a hot water system and undertake plumbing work in Victoria.

“Installing a tempering valve if one isn’t fitted is an easy and quick way to reduce the hot water temperature in the bathroom to keep kids safe,” Ms Byrne said.

Installing a thermostatic mixing valve that can be set to deliver hot water at a precise, safe temperature is another way to improve safety.

Continuous flow hot water systems, which allow households to set the desired temperature with electronic control pads so that hot water is delivered at a safe pre-set temperature, also helps improve safety.

It is important to remember maximum water settings are not bathing temperatures.

The Royal Children’s Hospital states the safe temperature for a child’s bath is between 37°C and 38°C (or about 36°C for a newborn).

To help avoid scalds in baths, parents should turn the cold water tap on first when running a bath and turn it off last to cool the spout. They should also test the temperature and remain within arm’s reach of children in the bath.

For further tips on how to reduce the risk of hot water burns and first aid burn tip, visit the Kidsafe website or the VBA’s Hot Water Safety Guide.