Burns and scalds

Workers who are constantly exposed to heat, either from flames or steam, are at risk from burns. These can be serious and even life-threatening. Ensuring workers have the correct protective equipment when working with heat is a must.

How are workers and others exposed?

Scalds and burns can be caused in a number of ways including, but not limited to some of the following:

  • knocking over pots of hot liquids with handles sticking over the bench
  • slipping on the floor and falling onto hot objects
  • steam or splash-back from coffee machines
  • exposure to flames, splattering oil and steam
  • carrying hot objects, food or liquids in restricted spaces
  • using caustic chemicals
  • using water that is too hot
  • using heated tools 

What you can do

First you must always eliminate the risk where you’re reasonably able to. Where you’re not reasonably able to, then you need to consider what you can do to minimise the risk. Here are some examples:

  • Train workers to stand to the side when opening hot ovens and steamers, and to lift pan lids away from them to avoid getting burnt by the steam or hot air escaping.
  • Provide workers with information about how to carefully and slowly put food into hot oil to minimise the chance of oil splashing onto their skin
  • Require workers to wear shoes that cover the tops of their feet to protect them from splashes and spills.
  • Use equipment that can be safely lifted by one person, or where this is not possible, train workers to lift in twos.
  • Avoid moving hot containers across walkways.
  • Only clean ovens and cooking utensils when they have cooled. Establish safe cleaning, and oil draining and disposal, procedures
  • Store containers with hot contents on flat, stable surfaces.
  • Check that pots and pans are in good condition and that handles are secure.
  • Avoid placing hot containers on the floor.
  • Avoid letting pan handles overlap the edge of the oven or work surfaces where they can be knocked off.
  • When buying equipment, look for equipment that automatically switches off after a set period of time or has safety features to prevent the user from being exposed to hot parts.
  • Limit the temperature of hot water taps. Where this is not practical, implement a method to check the temperature of the water before use.  
  • Store hot equipment in cages when switched on to avoid accidental contact with the hot parts.
  • Ensure lighting levels are sufficient enough to allow workers to clearly see what they are doing.
  • Develop procedures to ensure that any burns are treated and covered so that work doesn’t exacerbate them.
  • Provide hand protection such as oven mitts and cloths. Train workers to never use wet cloths to lift and move items.

You need to select the most effective controls that are proportionate to the risk, and appropriate to your work situation.

Get your workers involved

  • Ensure your workers know how to make suggestions, ask questions or raise concerns.
  • Always ask your workers for input on identifying health and safety risks and how to eliminate or minimise them. People are more likely to take responsibility and make good decisions when they have been involved in the conversation. Your workers (including contractors and temps) are the eyes and ears of your business. They can help spot issues, and suggest practical, cost-effective solutions.
  • Always train your workers on what the key risks are and how to keep healthy and safe. 

Find out more about getting your workers involved

Where to go for more information

International websites

Burns | WorkSafe British Columbia(external link)

Hospitality - Preventing burns | WorkSafe Victoria(external link)