Inta says “caution very hot water” signs are no excuse after tragic scalding death

Stuart Gizzi from anti-scald manufacturer Inta, explains why “Caution very hot water” signs are no excuse for scalding death.

We know about bathtime scalding. Since 2002 when we launched our company with what has become Britain’s best selling anti-scald valve, we have innovated to make products better, cheaper and easier to fit and we have campaigned to draw attention to the issue, which back then killed or maimed nearly 600 people a year. In that time, there have been significant improvements. Building regulations have been adapted to require thermostatic mixing valves to be fitted in new build domestic bathrooms. The best practice of including anti-scald equipment in bath and shower rooms has been adopted by many healthcare and hospitality estates, but once again, regrettably I am writing about yet another avoidable death caused by scalding in a bathroom that should have been equipped better.

When someone dies from scalding they are usually either quite elderly, very young or simply vulnerable, and their injuries are more often than not caused by immersion in a very hot bath from which they cannot get out. This does not seem to be the case with the latest death we are learning about.
A court case against hotel operator Whitbread has concluded with a payout by the company to the family of a woman who died after being scalded by the shower in her Premier Inn room in 2012. The incident happened while 59-year-old Kalyani Uthaman from India had been on holiday in Scotland.
The settlement from the hotel operator means that the case has not been heard by the court, much to the reported disappointment of Mrs Uthaman’s family.
The significant thing that we know about this case is that the hotel bathroom was not fitted with an anti-scald device. Something that would have prevented this tragedy. The other thing that we know is that anti-scald technology is not expensive. A basic TMV3 compliant valve costs around £40 and when installed at the same time as a bathroom, costs only pennies extra to fit.
A basic thermostatic shower valve costs on average 25% more than its non-thermostatic equivalent. We understand that this can be a significant cost across a typical 100 room hotel, but when new build hotel rooms are probably around £50,000 each, it doesn’t seem that much extra.
Hotel operators have a duty of care to their customers to provide a safe environment and as hoteliers they should also be taking seriously their duty of comfort, because an anti-scald shower not only protects, it makes for a better showering experience, preventing the all too familiar lurch between hot and cold as other hotel guests make demands on the water system.
We try to educate the plumbing and heating industry about scalding, we speak about the issue wherever we can, and we constantly remind people of one of the inescapable facts of anti-scald technology – valves need to be regularly serviced. We have even produced and distributed nearly a million of our free ‘everything you need to know about anti-scald’ booklets to the trade.
So what more can we do? In this instance, I think we need to help hoteliers understand that anti-scald protection in bathrooms does not mean putting up a sign saying “caution, very hot water”. It means providing hot water at sensible temperatures so that guests can enjoy that very basic human routine – washing.
Someone losing their life because their hotel bathroom wasn’t properly equipped is inexcusable. There really is no excuse.
Attitudes within the hospitality industry need to change from the ‘caution’ warning mentality, to the physical intervention. To help that and to demonstrate our commitment, we are prepared to give away a whole hotel’s worth of basic anti-scald valves (up to 100) in return for a picture of the caution signs that can then be removed from bathrooms when the valves are fitted, along with the assurance that work will be carried out straight away.
Every hotelier knows that there are lots of ways that guests can pick up injuries during their stay, but let’s change it so that scalding in the shower isn’t one of them.