There’s a specific safety reason why restrooms have a light switch on the outside.

You’ve noticed that most bathrooms have an exterior light switch, and probably experienced the awful scenario of having the lights shut off by a passerby while you were still inside. Oops! Sorry dear. But why would civil engineers put the switch in such a place? You have to be grateful for that, its for your own safety. Let’s learn more.

Related media: How Power Gets To Your Home: Crash Course Physics

Could You Be Electrocuted?

A functional light switch is certainly connected to a live wire. Most new buildings have professional electrical engineering, and chances of you being electrocuted are very rare. But in the case of aging electrical circuit systems and some (do-it-yourself) DIY electrical setups, the stakes are high. The metal screws on a light switch cover, especially, are liable to get you a jolt if a live wire happens to be lurking around.

Metals are used for electrical cables and wires because their excellent conductors; that is to say, when you send electrons through it, there is little resistance. Water — or, more specifically, the presence of other molecules in water — is an excellent conductor of electricity.

What we’re trying to say is that, if you happen to take a shower, a shock from a light switch can pass quickly through your body, forming a circuit that can electrocute you in the process.

Switch Your Lights Out

Due to this reason, most civil engineering companies have stringent safety requirements for placing switches outside and away from plumbing. For instance, civil engineering in the United Kingdom, requirements forbid electric installations from placing light switches within 0.6 meters (2 feet) of a bathtub or shower.

The particular requirements of section 701 — the section of the module that states these requirements — applies to the electrical installations in locations containing a fixed bath (bath tub, birthing pool) or shower, and to the surrounding zones as described in the Wiring Regulations. The Wiring Regulations do not apply to emergency facilities, for example, emergency showers used in industrial areas or laboratories.

Smaller bathrooms that does not have enough wall space, these electrical installation measures are strictly enforced. The alternative, which many UK bathrooms use instead, is to use a ceiling pull-cord. That keeps wet hands a safe distance from live light fixtures.

In the United States, electrical installation requirements aren’t so strict. You’re more likely to find interior light switches in an American bathroom — or as Americans prefer restroom.

Safety First

Independent circuits designed to shut off when there’s a change in current — like what might happen if electricity were to surge through your body — help keep you safe despite that. So if you were thinking those light switches were just some fancy building engineering or a flaw, you better have a second thought about it.

The next time you use a bathroom with an exterior switch, you can feel secure knowing that it’s just there for your safety — even if it might leave you peeing in the dark.

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Jan 27, 2019.


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