Hot Water Scalding

May 18, 2020 in Hazard, Hot Water, Injury, Safety, Scalding, Temperature

Perhaps one the least analyzed area of personal injury has to do with the causes of burns due to scalding by hot water. The temperatures which lead to burns differ between age groups and the ways to control of those temperatures are often overly generalized.

For instance, in the International Plumbing Code (IPC) (2018 IPC 412.10)   for shower, hot tub and head shampoo sink faucets water temperature is specified to not exceed 120℉ (2018 IPC 412.3 & 412.5). Anything above that temperature is considered to be a hazard. However, the code is incomplete because it is silent as to how long can, or should, a person expose themselves to a temperature of 120℉.  Anyone who has spent any time in a hot tub knows that your body is somewhat comfortable in temperatures in the 90’s but once you extend into the 100’s your duration in that hot tub diminishes with each degree rise in temperature.

We also need to understand that going too far below the 120℉ temperature could expose us to the dangerous Legionella bacteria well known to cause Legionnaires’ disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (https://www.cdc.gov/legionella/wmp/overview/growth-and-spread.html) this bacteria occurs naturally in a variety of fresh water bodies such as lakes, rivers and streams where the bacteria is in relatively low amounts and not likely to cause a health hazard. The same cannot be said for the bacteria residing in the plumbing systems of either residential or commercial buildings. Legionella bacteria thrives in such systems with temperatures between 77℉ – 108℉. It is therefore imperative that our hot water storage and delivery systems control the temperatures above or below that range of temperature but as of this writing they do not.

Some may ask if the hot water temperature can be controlled with the thermostat setting found on the hot water tank or today’s tankless water heaters.  The short answer is only to the degree of it’s maximum heat and therefore should not be relied upon for safety settings.  IPC 501.6 requires that “the temperature of water from tankless water heaters shall be not greater than 140℉ where intended for domestic uses”.  That leaves a 20 degree difference between the required maximum and the heating capacity of the water heater. Furthermore, standard water heaters do not have a set maximum water temperature. In fact, in some States such as California the plumbing code is clear that “The water heater thermostat shall not be considered a suitable control for meeting this provision” (provision meaning controlling the temperature coming out of the spigot at a maximum of 120℉) (2016 California Plumbing Code[CPC] 407.3). The mechanics of controlling the temperature beyond the water heater thermostat is a discussion we will tackle in a follow-up article. For now, we can say that a simple hand held thermometer is a simple first step by property owners and tenants to check the delivery temperature of the water.

Currently the codes are silent on the temperature delivery for hot water at a sink or lavatory in a private building such as a house or apartment. They only mention a maximum 120℉ range is for “Public Lavatories” (2016 CPC 407.3).  Those would logically include places such as hospitals, restaurants, airports, gas stations, and other places where the “public” has access to lavatories. What about domestic and commercial kitchen sinks? As of the date of this article the plumbing code is silent.

So we see what the plumbing codes say but in this author’s opinion that is not sufficient to prevent scalding or to truly understand what the consequences are when deciding how to approach burn associated cases involving hot water.

According to the American Burn Association – Scald Injury Prevention – Educator’s Guide:

Young children have thinner skin resulting in deeper burns than adults for the same temperature and exposure time to a scalding substance. The proportion of a child’s body that is exposed to any given amount of a scalding substance is also greater: the same cup of spilled coffee will burn a much larger percent of a small child’s body. Small children also have little control of their environment, less perception of danger and less ability to escape a burning situation on their own. Children grow fast and can reach new, dangerous things every day. They do not realize that hot liquids burn like fire. 

The Guide provides the following basic table for how hot temperature can affect a human being: 

In addition, according to an article by the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, National Burn Awareness Week February 6 – 12, 2012 the tolerance for exposure of hot water to infants and seniors is shorter than that noted in Table 1 above,

A further analysis of the two tables reveals a conflict between what the experts believe is a “Safe for bathing” temperature and the warning that any temperature below 108℉ could cause exposure to the Legionella bacteria. So are we exposing persons to danger of an illness when setting the temperature at or below the otherwise safe 104℉?  And, what is the “time for 3rd degree burn to occur” between 108℉ and 119℉?  It will likely be less than five minutes but the exact time data is not provided.

Some may argue, especially as it relates to small children, that children must be controlled by a supervising adult at the time the child is exposed to normal bathing activity.  It is assumed that most parents, guardians, or other such supervising adults would know not to place a child in a tub filled with extremely hot water. They may not know the exact temperature but most adults can feel the difference between safe and not safe water temperature. On the other-hand children are known to slip away from the guardian eyes of an adult and could cause themselves harm because of their playful or inquisitive nature.

In conclusion, no matter which side you are on Plaintiff or Defense, the scalding of humans by hot water is definitely a concern and must be taken seriously. Children’s accidental burns are heartbreaking and emotions can cloud our vision. As experts we need to rely on the science and follow the evidence wherever it may take us.  While this article may lead you to believe that lowering the temperature of hot water is the only answer, reducing the temperature to a level where the temperature range can lead to unwanted and unhealthy bacteria growth is also not the answer. The only clear mechanical answer is to design and install a system appropriate for the use and location.

In the meantime, Safe Kids Worldwide (www.safekids.org) and the American Burn Association (www.ameriburn.org) suggest ways for adults to 

Prevent Scalds During Bath Time:

  1. Set water heater to a maximum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or just below the medium setting (presumably giving under five minutes of time to pull a child out of a too hot tub)
  2. Check bathwater temperature. Before placing child in the bath, check the water temperature with your elbow (other source) or the inside of wrist as is done with heating baby’s milk. The water should feel warm to the touch, not hot.
  3. Place child in the bath facing away from the faucet. This way they won’t be tempted to touch the hot faucet or turn on the hot water.
  4. Do not leave a child unattended.

A single article cannot answer all the questions about hot water the its consequences.  Commercial, industrial, food industry, health care and other such faciilies vary greatly in the need and standards for each of those industries. Each must be examined for its unique need, use, and safety protocols.

Workers Memorial Day

April 29, 2020 in Corona Virus, COVID-19, OSHA, Pandemic, Safety

April 28th is the Workers Memorial Day. Not to be confused with Labor Day which is normally celebrated the first week of September.  The Workers Memorial Day is a day to acknowledge the contributions made each and every day by those workers who suffered fatal injuries in all fields and industries.

The United States Labor Department release the following statement. It does not specifically recall those who have perished due to the COVID-19 pandemic but they are certainly included in our hearts and memories.

U.S. Department of Labor Issues Statement Commemorating Workers’ Memorial Day

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day with a joint statement from U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), Loren Sweatt.

“Workers’ Memorial Day is a day for us to join together in remembering those who have lost their lives while doing their jobs,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. “As we memorialize workers who have lost their lives, we are mindful of the U.S. Department of Labor’s important role in working with employers and workers to create a national culture of safety. We are dedicated to working diligently every day to keep American workers safe and healthy on the job.”

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt added, “As we commemorate Workers’ Memorial Day this year, millions of Americans are working around-the-clock to save lives and provide critical services for those in need throughout the country. OSHA remains committed to the goal that every worker should return home at the end of each workday, safe and unharmed.”

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to help ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit www.osha.gov.

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

 

Machine Guarding

January 3, 2020 in Hazard, Injury, Machine Guarding, OSHA, Safety

Industrial and manufacturing plants and assemblies are closely associated with machine guarding as an element for protection of workers and those around them.

Machine guarding is one of the essential elements that concerns industrial and manufacturing plants. Machines that fall into the category of guillotine cutters, shears, alligator shears, power presses, milling machines, power saws, jointers, forming rolls and calendars, and various portable power tools are just some of the basic machines that require guarding. 

In California Cal-OSHA machine guarding requirements are found under Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety Orders, Group 8. Points of Operation and Other Hazardous Parts of Machinery 

Article 54. Scope and General Definitions, Section 4184 which states the following:

(a) Machines as specifically covered hereafter in Group 8, having a grinding, shearing, punching, pressing, squeezing, drawing, cutting, rolling, mixing or similar action, in which an employee comes within the danger zone shall be guarded at the point of operation in one or a combination of the ways specified in the following orders, or by other means or methods which will provide equivalent protection for the employee.

(b) All machines or parts of machines, used in any industry or type of work not specifically covered in Group 8, which present similar hazards as the machines covered under these point of operation orders, shall be guarded at their point of operation as required by the regulations contained in Group 8.

Exception: Microtomes (also called histotomes or cryostats) when guarding as required in Section 4184 is infeasible and the microtome is used, operated and maintained in accordance with Section 3558 of these Orders. For the purposes of this Exception guarding as required in Section 4184 is infeasible under circumstances that include, but are not limited to the following: there is no point-of-operation guard commercially available for an employer’s microtome.

Note: Authority cited: Section 142.3, Labor Code. Reference: Section 142.3, Labor Code.

Similar language is found in the United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety & Health Administration guidelines for machine guarding Section 1910.212(a)(1):

Types of guarding. One or more methods of machine guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods are-barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, electronic safety devices, etc.

It is important to note that machine guarding alone is not sufficient when maintaining any equipment.  Proper Lockout, Tag-out, or Block-out protocol must be followed.  A July 2019 publication by Cal-OSHA noted the following:

Failure to lockout, tag-out, and block-out (LOTO) machinery before working on it is a major cause of serious injuries and deaths. Workers can be electrocuted, suffer severe crushing injuries, and lose fingers, hands, and arms because machinery is inadvertently turned on while it is being cleaned, repaired, serviced, set-up, adjusted, or unjammed.

(For more information see Cal-OSHA Subchapter 7. General Industry Safety Orders, Group 2. Safe Practices and Personal Protection, Article 7. Miscellaneous Safe Practices Lockout / Tag-out / Block-out, Section 3314)

The author started to work with heavy machinery dating back to the early 1970’s.  The nearly 50 years of hands on experience, numerous installations, and scores of investigations, in addition to certifications and licenses, has provided the type of experience that allows the author to provide expert opinions regarding machine guarding and other industrial safety topic. 

Safety Engineering

October 22, 2019 in Safety, Safety Engineering

The California Board for Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologist does not mandate a license for those of us who conduct safety engineering.  So how do we justify calling ourselves safety engineers.

To put the controversy to rest we submit the following legal definitions:

Safety Engineering – California Code of Regulations Title 16, Division 5, §§400-476 “…is that branch of professional engineering which requires such education and experience as is necessary to understand the engineering principles essential to the identification, elimination and control of hazards to people and property; and requires the ability to apply this knowledge to the development, analysis, production, construction, testing, and utilization of systems, products, procedures and standards in order to eliminate or optimally control hazards. The above definition of safety engineering shall not be construed to permit the practice of civil, electrical, or mechanical engineering”

Since there is no requirement for licensing of a safety engineer, qualification for the title must rely on meeting the above definition. Such experience goes hand in hand with the legal definition of who is an expert, as noted next.

Expert – Federal Rules of Evidence – Rule 702 – defines an expert witness as a “witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education…” 

Expert –  Blacks Law Dictionary defines an expert as “One who is knowledgeable in specialized field, that knowledge being obtained from either education or personal experience” with a further definition, “One who by reason of eduction or special experience has knowledge respecting a subject matter about which persons having no particular training are incapable of forming an accurate opinion or making a correct deduction”. 

These recognized definitions are all consistent with the requirements of a safety engineer. Though it may be obvious, it is important to state that a safety engineer is limited to doing safety engineering within their field of experience, knowledge and training. Someone who does safety engineering related to medical facilities may not necessarily qualify to provide safety engineering related to aviation unless that person has the same level of knowledge in both fields.

Pacific Injury and Safety Experts, with nearly 49 years in the fields of construction, general industry, insurance, and personal injury is confident that the definition of safety engineering applies to our services and we look forward to providing those services to our clients.

Walkway Safety Certification

September 16, 2019 in ASTM, ASTM F2948-13, Bio-mechanical, certified auditor, Certified walkway expert, Gate mechanics, Human gait cycle, Walkway hazards, walkway safety

On September 12, 2019 The University of North Texas, Department of Engineering Technology, awarded our Senior Expert, Gidon R. Vardi, Ph.D, the certificate of completion in Walkway Safety Certification.

Among others, the certificate acknowledges that Dr. Vardi has completed a course in walkway safety which includes meeting the qualification requirements of ASTM International Guide F2948-13 for walkway auditor, meeting the requirement to be considered a “qualified person” by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Certification provided training in how to interpret and use tribometer readings to evaluate walkway safety, identify, suggest remediation for, and offer resolution for slip, slides and fall hazards on walkways, apply the principles of walkway safety, slip prevention, and risk assessment to comprehensive walkway safety management programs. Training includes background in bio-mechanical human gait cycle and gait mechanics.