Electrical Safety in the bathroom

You can make your bathroom among the most comfortable rooms in the home if you choose the right materials and equipment — taking full advantage of all the electrical appliances that make life so much easier. But if you fail to follow the safety rules, you could be walking into danger whenever you use it.

Electrical appliances such as mirror lights, instant shower units, shaver sockets, heated towel rails. Radiators and radiant heaters can add a touch of luxury as well as efficiency to any bathroom. But electricity can also make the bathroom potentially the most dangerous room in the house.

Socket outlets

It is against wiring regulations to install a socket outlet in a bathroom (or washroom), with the exception of purpose-made shaver units fitted with an isolating transformer which makes the units safe. Many striplights are available with combined shaver sockets, but unless these clearly state they have an isolating transformer they must not be installed in bathrooms.

Never use a mains voltage appliance in the bathroom by feeding it from a socket outlet from the landing or another room. However tempting it may be to trail a mains portable television in at bath-time, NEVER do it. Settle for a transistor radio if you are going to have a long soak. And never let other members of the family persuade you to let them use a hairdrier on the end of an extended lead.

Lights and switches

You must not have lights with open lampholders because this makes it possible to remove the lamp and use the lampholder as a socket for an appliance. All lights and appliances must be cord-operated or operated by switches outside the bathroom. Flexible cord should not be used to hang lampholders, which must always be fixed to the ceiling. Lamp-holders must also be beyond the reach of anyone showering or taking a bath and must be shrouded with an insulating material; or totally enclosed light fittings should be used. Mirror lights are specially designed, whether or not they have shaver units, to be safe in the bathroom.

Heaters

If you want an open reflector-type wall-mounted heater it must be installed out of reach of anyone using the bath or shower. It is also a good idea to have it operated by a switch outside the bathroom as well as by a cord inside the room; in the case of real emergency this means the appliance can be switched off even if the door is locked and quick access is difficult. This also applies to electrically heated towel rails and radiators. When installing a towel rail or radiator it is worth fixing a cord-operated ceiling switch that incorporates a pilot light. New rewiring regulations also state that any electrical equipment, like shower heater units or wall heaters or towel rails, must have an earth arrangement such as an ELCB.

Secure fittings

Make sure all fixtures are securely fitted and can only be removed by using the appropriate tools. This may sound fundamental but it is sometimes difficult to achieve in modern houses where plasterboard internal walls are used and do not always offer a strong anchorage point.

Warning There is always a danger of inheriting potential electrical hazards when you buy an older house. You must be especially careful where a scullery or bedroom has been converted to a bathroom without proper regard to safety. Always remove all socket outlets or old power points, move wall switches to outside the room and replace flex pendants with ceiling fittings.

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