A recent safety assessment conducted by the National Building Review Board (NBRB) in Uganda has raised a significant alarm regarding the safety of saunas and steam baths in health clubs across the country.
The study, which was initiated in 2021, reveals that the majority of these facilities, as many as nine out of ten, are at risk of exploding due to the use of firewood and manual pressure regulation.
This poses a serious threat to the safety of users, as well as the risk of fire outbreaks.
The research strongly recommends shifting to electric steam and hot water generators, which come equipped with standardized precautionary measures against system overloads.
The NBRB’s executive secretary, Ms. Flavia Gutto Bwire, pointed out that these unsafe installations, lacking monitoring devices for temperature and pressure, have led to heightened risks of explosions and fires in health clubs.
Ms. Gutto emphasized the findings of the study, stating that for every ten health clubs examined, nine were deemed potentially explosive, demanding immediate corrective measures.
She attributed these concerns to locally fabricated biomass-fired steam and hot water generation systems that lack engineering principles, thus compromising safety.
The urgency of this issue became evident following two separate incidents involving sauna explosions, one in Kira in September 2019, and another in July 2021 at a health club in Wakiso District, which tragically resulted in two fatalities. The Wakiso health club incident, in particular, was linked to excessive pressure and unregulated temperature changes within the steam tank, ultimately leading to a catastrophic explosion.
To address these safety concerns, the NBRB released safety guidelines on November 6. According to these guidelines, water pressure in steam baths should fall within the range of 15 PSI (1 bar) to 20 PSI (1.4 bars) and must be adjusted as needed. Health clubs are also advised to incorporate a hydro-pneumatic device to regulate pressure or install a stop valve in the water supply line, ensuring that impurities, like calcium deposits from tap water, do not obstruct internal steam generator components.
The NBRB’s study covered seven districts in Uganda, encompassing Kampala, Wakiso, Mbale, Iganga, Mbarara, Kabale, and Jinja, addressing the concerns of saunas and steam baths in health clubs across the eastern, western, and central regions of the country.