Burn Hazards/Heated Surfaces

Angie Szumlinski Uncategorized

As the cold weather approaches, many facilities may unknowingly be exposing residents to the risk for burns simply by turning on the heat!  Were you aware that skin exposure to a heated surface that is > 140 degrees for 3 seconds will cause a first-degree burn?  This temperature corresponds to the threshold between maximum pain and numbness as well as the threshold between reversible injury and possible irreversible injury.  The maximum acceptable temperatures for heated surfaces in nursing homes is 125 degrees F as determined from the information found in ASTM International Standard C1055-03 titled Standard Guide for Heated System Surface Conditions that Produce Contact Burn Injuries. 

In 1999 the “hand test” was the standard for measuring heated surface temperatures.  This process required that the palm of your hand be placed on the cover of a heated surface to determine if the temperature was acceptable.  If the hand could not be comfortably held on the surface for at least 30 seconds the surface temperature was too hot and was considered to be a hazard.  With the progress in technology however the standard today is to measure surface temperature using an infrared temperature measuring device.  These devices are relatively inexpensive and come with clear manufacturer’s recommendations/guidelines.  If you haven’t already purchased such a device HealthCap highly recommends you consider doing so with the goal of preventing injuries to the frail elderly we are entrusted to care for!