Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Paraffin based emollient creams on dressings and clothing

National Patient Safety Agency - Rapid Response Report 4

Following a reported death, the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) commissioned the Health and Safety Executive to undertake fire hazard testing with white soft paraffin on a variety of bandages, dressings and clothing. The results showed the ability to reproduce the fire hazard in a controlled environment. This risk was not previously well recognised.

Read the report here

The above report alerts all healthcare staff involved in the prescribing, dispensing or administration of paraffin-based skin products of a potential fire hazard.

Bandages, dressings and clothing in contact with paraffin-based products, for example white soft paraffin, white soft paraffin plus 50% liquid paraffin or emulsifying ointment are easily ignited with a naked flame or cigarette.

The document is accompanied by:

  • general advice and advice for hospital inpatients
  • supporting information for healthcare staff including background and findings
  • posters in English and Welsh
  • Health and Safety Laboratory report FS/06/12 ‘Fire hazards associated with contamination of dressings and clothing by paraffin based ointments’
  • examples of products containing paraffin
  • warning / hazard stickers for products
  • a patient safety video
  • leaflets in English and Welsh.

The above guidance can be found here

This guidance remains best practice. It should be followed to prevent future patient safety incidents.

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