hand adjusting a water heater temperature control

How to Protect Yourself & Your Family from Water Heater Burns

A Scald Injury Can Happen in Seconds

In the ‘80s, water heater manufacturers adopted a standard in which water heaters were manufactured with a thermostat pre-set to 120°F. Despite this, approximately 1500 people are admitted to the hospital each year with burns resulting from tap water scalds. These cases are often caused by malfunctioning water heaters or negligent property owners.

According to a study published in 2013, 41% of homes in the US had unsafe hot water temperatures. This same study also noted that homeowners were more likely to have safe water temperatures than those renting. It was also found that electric water heaters were more likely to maintain safe water temperatures than gas water heaters.

According to the American Burn Association, most scald burns occur in the home, often resulting from exposure to overly hot tap water in showers and bathtubs. When heated to 120°F, water can burn an adult’s skin in five minutes. At a temperature of 140°F, a serious burn may occur in just five seconds. To put this into perspective, coffee and tea are often served at 160 to 180°F.

Who Is at High Risk for Scald Burns?

Infants and young children have thinner, more delicate skin than the average adult. Because of this, they are at greater risk of receiving scald burns when water temperatures suddenly become too hot. Additionally, when children or infants are burned, their burns tend to be deeper and more severe. As reported by the American Burn Association, 15,000 children are admitted to the hospital with burns each year.

Click here to learn about a recent case handled by Attorney Stan Pekler of Frish Law Group, APLC in which he successfully represented the Valencia family, whose infant son was badly scalded by a malfunctioning water heater.

Older adults are more likely to have limited or inhibited mobility and/or slower reaction times and therefore cannot readily remove themselves from harm’s way. They may also be dealing with a reduction in their ability to feel heat due to a medical condition or medications.

Individuals with special needs or disabilities are also at high risk for scald burns. Issues with mobility, muscle weakness, sensory impairment, and difficulty communicating with caregivers can contribute to an increased risk of scald burns.

3 Important Water Heater Safety Tips

Tap water scald burns can be incredibly serious and result in lifelong scarring or even death. When a water heater malfunctions or isn’t properly maintained, a scald burn can happen without warning. As was the case with the Valencia family, the water coming from their tap increased in temperature dramatically and suddenly, and even with only a couple of seconds of exposure, their infant son ended up suffering extensive second-degree burns that necessitated weeks in the hospital.

A situation like the Valencia family’s can happen to anyone. However, with increased awareness of the dangers of water heater burns, families can take steps to reduce the risk of this happening to them. Keep reading for three tips on water heater safety.

Tip #1: Be Aware of Safe Bathing Temperatures

The American Burn Association recommends a bathing temperature of no more than 100°F. When preparing a bath for yourself, consider investing in a thermometer so that you can test your bathwater and ensure that it is not too hot. A bath thermometer is especially valuable if you are preparing baths for others, especially infants, children, and adults you care for. Bathwater thermometers can be found online for under $15, and many come in fun shapes for children and babies.

It is also a good idea to install a thermostatic mixing valve on your shower or bathtub plumbing. Thermostatic mixing valves can be set to regulate bathing water temperature not to exceed a specific temperature (such as 105°) while still allowing their water heater to remain at a higher temperature to prevent bacteria growth.

Tip #2: Always Supervise Children in the Bath

Children are incredibly curious. When left unattended in the bath, they may be tempted to turn the taps on, not realizing the dangers of hot water. Constant supervision of young children while bathing, both in the shower or the bathtub, can help prevent scald burns. Additionally, should the water temperature change without warning, you are there to assist the child immediately.

Tip #3: Get to Know Your Water Heater

Keeping your water heater well-maintained is another way to avoid scalding burns. Like many home appliances, water heaters should be inspected yearly to ensure they are in good working order. During your inspection, ask the technician to show you around your water heater and have them demonstrate how to reduce the temperature on your water heater.

If you notice that your water heater is not performing well, or you’ve noticed that the water coming from your tap is suddenly changing temperature, call out a professional water heater maintenance technician. Water heaters that need repairs are more likely to malfunction and cause serious burns.

What to Do If You Are Burned

If you or a loved one suffers burns because of a malfunctioning water heater, you may want to consult with an experienced attorney. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you might have grounds to seek compensation for your injuries. For example, if you are a renter, your landlord has a duty of care to maintain their property and ensure that it is safe for tenants. This includes making sure the water heater is in good working condition.

At Frish Law Group, APLC, we understand how traumatizing burn injuries can be. Our law firm is committed to helping clients seek the compensation they are entitled to and which they need to heal and move forward. Contact our law firm to discuss your case with a lawyer.

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