Definition of Burns and Scalds

A burn is an injury to the skin or other organic tissue primarily caused by heat or due to radiation, radioactivity, electricity, friction or contact with chemicals.1

A scald is a type of burn when hot liquids destroy some or all of the cells in the skin or other tissues.1

Impact of Burns and Scalds on Western Australia

Who does it impact?

In Western Australia between 2014 and 2018, there were 22 deaths due to burns and scalds.2

In Western Australia between 2015 and 2019 there were:2

  • 5,755 hospitalisations due to burns and scalds.
  • 62.9% of hospitalisations for burns and scalds were males.
  • people aged 25-44 had the highest incidence of burns and scalds.

In Western Australia Aboriginal People make up 3.1% of the population, however between 2011 and 2015 16.17% of burns and scalds hospitalisations were Aboriginal People.2,3

Where does it occur?

In Western Australia, between 2015 and 2019, the three regions with the greatest difference in hospitalisation rate compared to the WA State hospitalisation rate, were the Kimberley (286% higher), Midwest (63% higher) and Goldfields (57% higher).2

Impact on health system
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 $12,846,798.2

Determinants of Burns and Scalds (Risk / Protective Factors)

Social Determinants

Income and socioeconomic status
Socioeconomic status is associated with an increased risk of a burn injury.5 These socioeconomic status factors include ethnicity (non-Caucasian), low income, single parents, low literacy, low maternal education, unemployment, poor living conditions and overcrowding.5

An individual’s risk of burns and scalds is increased due to their occupation. This increased risk is specific to each occupation, for example there is a higher risk of scalds among hospitality workers, electrical burns among electricians and tar burns among builders.1

Environmental, Community and Organisational Determinants

Environmental hazards
Houses have a number of burns hazards, which increase the risk of a burn injury. These hazards include hot water, hot drinks, ovens, cook tops, kettles, irons, heaters, open fires, matches, chemicals and electrical outlets.5

There are a number of electrical hazards around the home that can cause electrical burns such as electric fires, electric blankets, kettles, irons and faulty power boards.1

Open fires
Open fires increase the risk of a burn injury. Types of open fires include campfires, bonfires and barbecues.1

Behavioural and Individual Determinants

Cigarette, alcohol and drug use
Those who smoke, drink alcohol and use drugs have a significantly higher risk of being injured or dying in a residential fire.4 Fatal home fires are often traced back to cigarettes, as it is common for house fires to begin by igniting bedding or furnishings.5

Children’s nightwear
Children’s nightwear including pyjamas, nightshirts, and dressing that do not comply with safety standards have an increased risk of a burn injury or death if the nightwear catches on fire.4

Effective Interventions

Legislation, Policies, Standards and Codes of Practice

Smoke alarm legislation
Legislation surrounding the instillation and active use of smoke alarms in homes has proven to decrease the risk of injuries or death from residential fires.4

Western Australian example

Since 1997 the installation of smoke alarms has been mandatory in all new homes and residential properties undergoing major renovations in Western Australia.7 Since 2009 prior to the sale of existing residential properties and when a new tenant moves into a rental property, main powered smoke alarms must be fitted.1

Labeling on nightwear standard
Changes to the Australian Standard for warning labels attached to nightwear have led to major reductions in injuries.1

Western Australian example

The labeling of children’s nightwear in relation to flammability falls under the Western Australian Fair Trading Act 1987. There are three categories of labeling; “Low fire danger”, “Styled to reduce fire danger” and “Warning – high fire danger – keep away from fire”.4

Environmental, Community and Organisational Initiatives

Installation and maintenance of smoke alarms campaigns
Campaigns and community initiatives that advocate for smoke alarms to be; checked monthly; fitted away from areas which may set off false alarms; fitted with long-life lithium batteries or are wired, are all important in the prevention of burns and scalds.4

Western Australian example

Are you WinterSAFE is a campaign run by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services that advocates for the importance of working smoke alarms and safe practices in the home. For further information about DFES’ WinterSAFE campaign click here

Group and Individual Initiatives
Chemical storage training Safe storage of chemicals such as kerosene and petrol reduces the risk of chemical burns, especially in young children.4

Western Australian example

The Home Safety Demonstration Home in WA is run by Kidsafe and showcases a safe home environment with a focus on appliances and safe products that support the prevention of injuries in the home. Kidsafe also run a seasonal childhood injury prevention program, with burns and scalds prevention being the primary focus in winter.4

Fire skills training
Training for children around appropriate fire safe behaviours, how to react in an emergency and what actions to take when a fire breaks, has proven to increase knowledge around fire skills, however currently there is no research indicating that this behavioural training results in behavioural change in a real life fire situation.4

Western Australian example

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services of Western Australia (DFES) run a variety of campaigns/programs that target school-aged young people and communities at risk. Resources can be found on the DFES website – For further information about these campaigns/programs, call 9395 9816 or email For young people involved in risky firelighting behaviour, DFES offers a 1-to1 education session with a firefighter. Further information about the Juvenile and Family Fire Awareness Program (JAFFA) is available from or by calling 9395 9488.

Key stakeholders in Western Australia

 Other Resources


1World Health Organisation (2014). Burns. Retrieved from
2Data generated using HealthTracks Reporting, by the Epidemiology Branch, WA Department of Health in collaboration with the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRC-SI), March 2021.

3Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016, ‘Western Australia, People’, viewed 5 September 2017, <>

4Arena, G., Cordova, S., Gavine, A., Palamara, P. & Rimajova, M. (2002). Injury in Western Australia: a review of best practice, stakeholder activity, legislation and recommendations. Perth: Injury Research Centre, The University of Western Australia.

5Department of Health, Western Australia. (2009). Burn Injury Model of Care. Perth: Health Networks Branch, Department of Health Western Australia.
6Department of Fire & Emergency Services (2015). Smoke Alarm Legislative Requirements. Retrieved from
7Kidsafe Tasmania (2015). Children’s Nightwear & Fire Safety. Retrieved from

 Printable Factsheet

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