Hot water safety

Hot water scalding can happen when the temperature from a hot water tap is too high. Ten degrees can be the difference between a safe contact time with hot water and third-degree burns.

Burn times from hot tap water:

  • at 60°C it can take just five seconds for an adult, and 1 second for a child, before third-degree burns occur
  • at 50°C it can take five minutes for an adult or child before third-degree burns occur.

Maximum water temperature

By law, the maximum temperature for heated water connected to plumbing fixtures must not be higher than 50°C if used primarily for personal hygiene, such as showers, baths, hand basins, and bidets.

In public buildings intended for use by children, the elderly, or people with disability, the water temperature must not be more than 45°C in:

  • residential areas of aged care buildings
  • patient care areas in health care buildings
  • early childhood centres
  • schools
  • designated accessible facilities in common areas.

Installing a water temperature control

A thermostatically controlled tap or a tempering valve should be installed to make sure the water comes out of the tap at a lower temperature because the delivery temperature of heated water must not be higher than 50°C. But heated water needs to be stored above 60°C in a hot water system to prevent stagnation and bacteria growth, such as legionella.

Hot water systems installed before 1998 are unlikely to have temperature control devices fitted. Speak to a licensed plumber about installing a temperature control device.

All water temperature control devices need regular maintenance and performance testing.

The maximum water settings are not bathing temperatures. You should still mix cold water with hot water for baths and showers. Children and the elderly are more likely to suffer burns than other age groups as their skin tends to be softer, and they're less likely to be able to protect themselves.

The maximum bathing temperature recommended for young children is 37°C to 38°C.

You can reduce the risk of burns by:

  • installing a water temperature control device
  • always running cold water first
  • never leaving a child alone in the bathroom.

Page last updated 7 September 2023

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