HOUSING chiefs have urged council tenants not to panic after a baby in Somerset was scalded to death by a faulty water heater.
The borough council issued the reassurance after an inquest heard 10-month-old Rhianna Hardie was killed when boiling water cascaded over her cot at her council home in Taunton.
Coroner Michael Rose said the problem was caused by an ageing thermostat which allowed hot water to flood the cold water tank. This overheated and leaked hot water on to the child as she slept.
Mr Rose added: “This is important ... it could affect as many as 3.5m houses in the UK.”
The coroner went on to say there had been only one other fatality involving an immersion heater – in Penwith, Penzance in 2002.
In response, the borough council’s head of housing services Allan Lewis said: “Like everyone, we were saddened to hear of the tragic death of Rhianna.
“This particular set of circumstances was unusual, and tenants should not panic just because they may have an immersion heater.
“We have a reducing number of immersion heaters in council houses because when we install new heating systems, we are fitting gas combination boilers and these do not need immersion heaters and cold water storage tanks.
“We take our responsibilities as landlord seriously and comply with all the necessary safety checks. We will seek further advice from the Health & Safety Executive to see what lessons may be learnt from the Taunton case.
“In the meantime, tenants should let us know if they have any particular concerns over their hot water systems.”
Mr Lewis said they should lookout for:
Any unexpected rise in the temperature of the hot water
Any signs of hot water coming through the cold taps
Any unusual noises from the heating system such as banging or bubbling
And any signs of hot water flowing out of overflow pipes.
He added: “In the event of a tenant experiencing any such problems, they should turn their immersion off and contact the council.”