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RoSPA's Hot Bath Water Safety Campaign

Changes to the Building Regulations in April 2010 prove that sustained safety campaigning can bring about results which will have a real impact on saving lives and reducing injuries.

...it can take seconds for a serious scald injury to be sustained, but the suffering can endure for many, many years.

An amendment to the Building Regulations means that as of April 6, 2010, all new-build homes across England and Wales will have devices fitted to baths to limit the temperature of the water to 48°C. That temperature is still more than hot enough for domestic use, but it removes the potential for the most serious scald injuries to happen. Northern Ireland will also adopt the amendment, but at a slightly later date. The devices - called thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) - became a requirement in new homes in Scotland in 2006.

RoSPA had called for a number of years for TMVs to be fitted in homes across the UK.

TMVs blend hot water (which is heated before use to a temperature of 60°C or above in order to kill legionella bacteria) with cold water to ensure water comes out of the tap at a safe temperature.

Action on hot water safety was needed in light of accident figures which showed that nearly 600 people were suffering a severe scald injury in the UK each year. Three-quarters of the victims were under the age of five.

Older people were shown to be at particular risk of dying as a result of hot tap-water scalds, with an average of 15 pensioners dying each year as a result of such accidents.

Tom Mullarkey, RoSPA chief executive, said: "We have heard of cases in which young children have fallen into hot baths or in which they have been left alone in the bath and have turned on the hot tap, unable to turn it off again. Sometimes their parents had left them alone for just a matter of minutes, perhaps to get clean clothes or a towel. We also know that older people have been severely scalded when they have got into a bath that has been too hot and have been unable to climb out quickly.

...the regulatory amendment sends out a clear message: hot bath water is a serious issue.

"It can take a matter of seconds for a serious scald injury to be sustained, but the suffering can endure for many, many years. Some children require numerous skin grafts as they grow, and the lifetime costs of treating a scald have been put at £250,000."

In 2003, the fitting of TMVs was among 10 recommendations in RoSPA's pioneering policy document, called "Can the home ever be safe?"

In 2004, the campaign received a boost when the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced it was to consult on bringing water temperature safety within the scope of the Building Regulations. It was hoped new rules on bath taps would be implemented by 2006.

However, although an amendment was introduced in Scotland in 2006, the rest of the UK didn't follow suit.

The campaign continued in earnest.

In 2006, RoSPA became a member of the Hot Water Burns Like Fire campaign. Launched by Mary Creagh, MP for Wakefield, it brought together a range of organisations. In the same year, Mary Creagh used the opportunity provided by a House of Commons' 10-Minute Rule Bill to call for a change to the Building Regulations.

Burns and scalds featured strongly on the programme at RoSPA's National Home Safety Congress in 2006, and in 2007, RoSPA and Home Accident Prevention Northern Ireland launched the Hot Water Burns Like Fire campaign in Northern Ireland.

Also in 2007, TMVs and hot water safety in general were designated RoSPA's "key campaign", which was presented to around 3,000 guests at gala dinners during RoSPA's Occupational Safety and Health Awards.

...sustained safety campaigning can bring about results which will have a real impact on saving lives and reducing injuries.

A golden opportunity to make the detailed case for TMVs came about when a consultation on proposed amendments to Part G of The Building Regulations 2000 was published in May 2008. Launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government, it called for more information on the likely costs and benefits of installing measures such as TMVs.

The Hot Water Burns Like Fire campaign rose to the challenge, and detailed costs and benefits of TMVs were researched and included as part of the partners' official response.

When it was announced that the Building Regulations would indeed be amended to require TMVs in new-build homes, it was proof that sustained campaigning based on robust evidence really can lead to change.

Even though the long-fought-for regulatory change has now been introduced, efforts to raise awareness of the danger of hot water continue.

Tom Mullarkey said: "The regulatory amendment sends out a clear message: hot bath water is a serious issue. RoSPA will continue to raise awareness of this and share the practical steps that people can take to prevent further cases of needless suffering."

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