Man electrocuted by iPhone in bathtub serves as warning

Do you have a smartphone? Then you shouldn’t forget safety hazards — including the risk of getting electrocuted if it’s plugged in and falls into water

iPhone Electrocuted

Are you so attached to your smartphone that you even use it while sitting in the bathtub? A British man learned the hard way last December that that’s not the safest thing to do. He was electrocuted when his iPhone charger — which was plugged in via an extension cord — touched the tub water. In being electrocuted he suffered severe burns on his chest, arm and hand before dying.

This unfortunate accident was preventable, in the same was as keeping corded, plugged-in appliances such as hair dryers or radios away from the tub. In my practice as an electrocution attorney, I’ve encountered several of these instances.

But because smartphones have been so ingrained with our daily lives, we often forget how the basic safety rules regarding electric appliances apply to them.

In short, if an appliance of any size is connected to a current, the danger of being electrocuted exists. Add water to the situation and that danger intensifies to deadly.

Can an unplugged smartphone get you electrocuted?

But are you at risk of being electrocuted if an iPhone or any other smartphone is not plugged when it’s accidentally dropped into the water?

Not exactly. You probably can get a shock but not a full-blown electrocution. Steve Curtler, a product safety manager for Charity Electrical Safety First, told BBC News that people would not get electrocuted from something like a laptop or smartphone if it was not being charged. With a low voltage of 5V to 20V, “you probably wouldn’t feel it” if any of these devices came into contact with water, Curtler said.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should try to find out whether that’s true and risk getting a shock-related injury. Among my five life-saving tips to preventing electric shock injuries, never use electric appliances in the bathroom or anywhere else they might accidentally come into contact with water.

In addition, if your hands are wet or moist, don’t handle a smartphone that’s being charged. Water is a potent conductor of electricity, and skin moisture can lower your natural resistance to electric shock.

Yes, newer models of smartphones are being manufactured to be water resistant so that dropping them in water won’t ruin the phone. But when there’s a live current going through it via a charger cord, you’re not fully protected from being electrocuted.

Smartphones are replaceable, and when automatic backup is being used, their data is recoverable. You and your loved ones don’t have those same benefits if any of you are electrocuted.

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