Background: Domestic appliances are burning people. In the European Union, accidents requiring hospital treatment due to burns from hot objects account for between 0 and 1% of all such accidents. Young children are particularly at risk. These reported accidents requiring hospital treatment are also likely to be a small proportion of the total number of burns from hot objects.
Research method: There is a lack of hard evidence about the level of accidents, typical consumer expectation and use, and on the state of the art of appliances. Results of technical laboratory tests carried out on products are used to demonstrate the state of the art and also show how consumer expectations could be changing. Results of a survey into accidents, based on a written questionnaire following telephone contact, provide information on non-hospital cases.
Results: Results of tests on products show that there are significant differences in the temperatures of touchable surfaces, even in products of the same type. Typically, these differences are due to variations in design and/or materials of construction. Some products are hot enough to burn skin. Accident research indicates that non-hospital medical practices are treating burn injuries, which are therefore not being included into the current accident statistics.
Conclusions: For products with the same function, some types of design or materials of construction are safer, with lower surface temperatures. Many product standards have no or unnecessarily high limits on surface temperatures. Many standards do not address the realities of who is using their products, for what purpose or where they are located. Some standards use unreasonable general limitations and exclusions that allow products with higher surface temperatures than they should have. Many standards rely on the experience factor for avoiding injury that is no longer valid, with the increased availability of safer products of the same type. A major field of work ahead is to carry out more surveys and in-depth studies of non-fatal accidents and injuries.