Safety in the bathroom

Water and electricity don’t mix. That’s why there are tags on hairdryers, heaters and other appliances warning of the risk of electrocution if the appliance falls in water.

“Bathrooms are the most dangerous rooms in homes because of the large number of appliances used and multiple water sources present,” said Rick Coons, CEO at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “Not following proper rules regarding electricity can lead to serious injury or even death.”

Water, even just a small amount from damp skin after a shower, reduces the body’s resistance to electricity and therefore increases the risk of electric shock, Coons said. Full immersion in water eliminates that resistance and accelerates the electric current.

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, more than 30,000 non-fatal shocks occur each year. The organization estimates that 60 electrocutions happen per year from consumer products, such as small appliances, power tools and lighting equipment.

Ground-fault circuit interrupters try to prevent electrocution, especially when electrical appliances are submerged in water. The circuit breakers are designed to shut off electricity when they detect that the current is flowing through water, a person or any unintended path.

GFCIs have saved thousands of lives and have reduced the number of home electrocutions in half since they were created in the 1970s.

The National Electrical Code currently requires bathrooms, kitchens, crawl spaces and more locations in new and remodeled older homes to have GFCIs installed.

Here are some questions you should consider regarding electrical safety in your bathroom:

  • Are GFCIs installed in your home?
  • Have you tested your GFCI outlets this month to make sure they are working properly?
  • Are the light switches or sockets starting to show signs of wear?
  • Have you ever felt an electric current when touching an electrical appliance?
  • Can you reach any electrical appliance from the bathtub or shower?

Other safety tips to keep in mind for your bathroom include:

  • Dry your hands before using small electrical appliances (hairdryers, electric razors, etc.). Use a towel to absorb the water and prevent the water from coming in contact with anything that can shock you.
  • Unplug small electrical appliances when not in use to avoid a shock or fire.
  • Use central heating, instead of an electric heater, to keep bathrooms warm.
  • Remove hairdryers, heaters or music players from bathrooms.
  • Cover light fixtures, especially ones in your shower. Uncovered lightbulbs exposed to water or steam can lead to electrocution or fire.
  • When installing a GFCI outlet, turn off the circuit and use tools with insulated handles.
  • Call an electrician if you have questions regarding installation.

Following these simple tips in your bathroom can prevent an electrical fire or tragic injury.

Sources: Electrical Safety First, Electrical Safety Foundation International, King Electric Service

How can you keep your bathroom safe? Here are some helpful tips from Indiana Electric Cooperatives.

  • Dry your hands before using small electrical appliances (hairdryers, electric razors, etc.). Use a towel to absorb the water and prevent the water from coming in contact with anything that can shock you.
  • Make sure at least one GFCI outlet is installed in your bathroom. These circuit breakers save lives and prevent electrocution by stopping the flow of electricity when an electrical appliance falls in water.
  • Unplug small electrical appliances when not in use to avoid a shock or fire.
  • Replace light switches that show signs of wear.
  • Use central heating, instead of an electric heater, to keep bathrooms warm.
  • Remove hairdryers, heaters or music players from bathrooms.
  • Never leave an electrical appliance near a bathtub, shower or sink.
  • Cover light fixtures, especially ones in your shower. Uncovered lightbulbs exposed to water or steam can lead to electrocution or fire.
  • When installing a GFCI outlet, turn off the circuit and use tools with insulated handles.
  • Call an electrician if you have questions regarding installation.

Helpful bathroom safety tips from Indiana Electric Cooperatives:

  • Dry your hands completely before using small electric appliances.
  • Use central heating, instead of an electric heater, to keep your bathroom warm.
  • Test your GFCI outlets monthly to confirm they are working.
  • Unplug unused, electrical appliances.
  • Cover light fixtures that could catch fire when exposed to water or steam.
  • Turn off the circuit and use tools with insulated handles when installing a GFCI outlet.
  • Call an electrician if you have questions about your GFCI outlets.

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