Heating, Ventilating & Plumbing
Severe scalding at care home could have been prevented
Published:  04 January, 2013

A Cornish care home that was blasted as "criminally negligent" for scalding a vulnerable disabled resident could have easily prevented the accident occurring at all, according to anti-scald manufacturer Inta.

Paul Cundy, 64, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning disabilities, was hospitalised for four weeks after being placed in a bath where the water was too hot, resulting in second-degree burns to 10% of his body.

An HSE investigation found the fitted thermostatic mixing valve (TMV), which would have regulated the water temperature to below the national guideline recommendation of 44°C had been disconnected in 2002.

The court was told four internal maintenance reports showed the TMV was not working and identified it as high risk because water from the tap was just under 60°C.

Comhome Limited and Solor Care, the care home owner and agency, were fined £10,000 each and ordered to pay costs totalling £62,000 after pleading guilty to a breach of section three of the Health & Safety at Work Act.

Stuart Gizzi, managing director of Inta (manufacturer of anti-scald thermostatically controlled products) said: "Being negligent with anti-scald equipment has moral and financial implications and this incident shows how expensive a scalding claim can be. Disconnecting an anti-scald device takes as much, if not more effort than replacing it. Leaving it disconnected is totally irresponsible."

"We are very sorry to hear of the injuries that Mr Cundy suffered, but we are pleased to see how seriously the Health & Safety Executive have treated the incident. But fines do not rebuild lives or heal injuries - proper care and maintenance prevents them in the first place."

Gizzi explained that although there has been a requirement for thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) devices within healthcare or social care environments for many years now, they do require an annual maintenance check to ensure they are still operating correctly.

“Their correct operation can, over time become restricted by limescale or dirt," he said. “But maintenance is simple and there is really no excuse for it not to be included on a care home's regular maintenance schedule."

Care homes have a duty of care requirement that encourage them to use TMVs, both to limit the risk of scalding and to ensure that water is at a comfortable temperature that does not discourage hand washing. The use of TMV3 valves is essential in such establishments.

Inta also advise that any temperature above 44°C can potentially be dangerous, or even deadly.

More information on anti-scald valves, their correct specification and maintenance can be found at intatec.co.uk.