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Hot Topic: Preventing burns and scalds

Burns and scalds are preventable injuries that can significantly impact individuals’ health and well-being. They can result from heat, fire, hot liquids, steam, chemicals, electricity, or radiation exposure.

In Western Australia in 2019, there were 1,307 hospitalisations for burns and scalds, consuming an estimated 6,263 bed days at an approximate cost of $12,846,798. Last year, there were over 110 large bushfires in the Perth metro area and in 2022, six people died in WA due to contact or exposure to smoke, fire and flames. This highlights the need to understand the causes, prevention strategies, and available resources to reduce the incidence and severity of burns and scalds.

Burns and scalds can occur in various settings, including homes, workplaces, and recreational areas. In homes, common burn hazards include hot water, hot drinks, ovens, cooktops, kettles, irons, heaters, open fires, matches, chemicals, and electrical outlets. In workplaces, the risk of burns and scalds can be increased depending on the occupation. For example, there is a higher risk of scalds among hospitality workers, electrical burns among electricians, and tar among builders.

Preventing burns and scalds requires a multi-faceted approach that involves education, environmental modifications, and behavioural changes. Effective interventions include:

  • Educating individuals about the causes of burns and scalds and safe practices around hot surfaces and substances.
  • Smoke alarm legislation where homeowners are required to install smoke alarms.
  • Awareness-raising activities that provide a suite of information regarding smoke alarm installation, maintenance and legislation.
  • Fire skills training for children around appropriate fire-safe behaviours, how to react in an emergency, and what actions to take when a fire breaks out.

Discover the determinants, effective interventions, organisations, and programs in WA that aim to prevent and reduce the impact of burns and scalds. For information, resources, and guidance to support Local Governments and health and community workers in increasing awareness of the importance of burns prevention and correct first aid, visit the Know Injury Burns and Scalds page and download the Burns Toolkit.

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