Preventing Scald Burns via Tap Water

By May 30, 2016Burn Safety

Burns caused by scalding hot water are far more common than one would realize, particularly in light of the fact that they are preventable with a simple addition to the water line.  In order to stem the tide of these burns, proper precaution must be taken by apartment managers, landlords,  building and home owners and hotels.

There are numerous ways to prevent scalding burns, also referred to as a “partial-thickness or full-thickness burn.” In residential settings, the most widely used device for preventing tap water scalds is a pressure-balance control valve. A pressure balance valve is a sophisticated plumbing device that reacts to changes in the pressure of the delivery water. These devices were required by plumbing codes starting in the early-to-mid 1990s. They are installed as either the control valve for the combination bathtub and shower unit, or just for the shower stall.

If someone is taking a shower and a flushed toilet elsewhere in the house activates cold water, the cold-water pressure may suddenly drop and hot water would not be thoroughly mixed with the cold water. Therefore much hotter water would exist at the shower head and possibly scald the user. With the pressure-balancing valve, a drop in the pressure of the cold water would deflect the diaphragm and move the cylinder towards the cold side, allowing more cold water to enter the control valve and less hot water. This is instantaneous transfer to prevent a scald burn.

Scald protection can also be provided for bathtub-only appliances, bathrooms and kitchen sinks, along with older-existing showers that do not have pressure-balancing valves. These add-on thermostatic-control devices screw onto sink spouts, shower heads and bathtub spigots. The water can be limited at 114 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water heats up past that, it will stop the water from exiting the spout.

Most people take showers between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. At hotels, schools and apartment complexes, a combination mixing thermostatic valve is generally installed. The water temperature is usually set at a maximum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which would prevent the likelihood of injury.

Walker Morgan has handled more than 15 scald-burn injuries involving excessively hot tap water. Liability aspects in some of these cases focused on the landlord pertaining to the necessity of maintaining a safe property for tenants. Some focused on a contractor, and other focused on hotel management personnel. In rare instances, products liability issues against the hot water heater manufacturer have existed. All hot water heaters should have a legible sticker advising of the dangers associated with temperature thermostatic settings in excess of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you or a loved one has been harmed by hot water in your home, apartment, or while in a hotel, the primary villain is usually the hot water heater’s thermostat control knob. The temperature setting is visible from the outside, and is easily adjusted. If the setting is incorrect, you will want to reset the knob according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If you reset the thermostat, you should wait a day before you test the water temperature.

Preventing serious tap water scalds is easy. However the hazard is hidden. If a member of your family has been harmed, Walker Morgan can provide advice concerning your legal rights.

Will Walker

About Will Walker