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Electrocution by iPhone charger (involving a bathtub)

  1. Mar 17, 2017 #1
    This link:


    Briefly, a man was using his iPhone in the bath while he was charging it. He dropped it in and was electrocuted. How?

    Where did the mains reference come from - transformer? Optocoupler? Y-Class capacitor? I always thought Apple chargers were well designed safety-wise.

    Isn't a bathtub isolated electrically? (Yes, the taps are bonded, I know).
    Why didn't his RCD (GFCI) trip?

    In short.... how?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 17, 2017 #2


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    for all us here, not knowing all the facts of the situation ... the answer can only be "cause unknown"

    as I said, unknown, there must have been a cabling fault of some sort

    maybe / maybe ... again without the specific info ... cause unknown

    probably wasn't one installed

  4. Mar 17, 2017 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    The bathtub drain is also bonded.
  5. Mar 17, 2017 #4
    Not in the UK, I believe.

    In any case, is the 5v from an Apple charger not 'floating'?
  6. Mar 17, 2017 #5
    It's not really clear what fell in the bath.
    If it was a cable carrying AC mains to some other device, the result is unsurprising.
  7. Mar 17, 2017 #6
    They talk about an extension cord from the hallway ...
    The phrase "charger element in the bath" leads me to believe that the AC cord and charger itself fell into the bath, not just the phone and charger cable end. The hallway probably would not have had a GFCI (at least not in the US - those are more commonly used in the bathroom and kitchens or any wet area, but older homes may not have them).


    If only the phone side was in the bath, he should not have been electrocuted, as mentioned, that side should be isolated from the mains. It would take a fault in the charger, and I think they would have mentioned it, and not only called it an accident.
  8. Mar 17, 2017 #7
  9. Mar 17, 2017 #8

    jim hardy

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    The low voltage surely "floats" (no pun intended)

    US code says there should NOT be a receptacle within reach of the tub, for obvious reasons.

    That suggests he had it plugged into an extension cord,
    and if that fell into the tub anything could happen.

    That said, low voltage will really shock when your your skin is wet. I state from personal experience it is impossible to hand tighten a loose 12 volt boat battery terminal when you're soaked with seawater . It would not surprise me if somebody immersed chest deep in water maybe laced with bath salts were to get electrocuted by fifteen volts.

    My bet though is on the extension cord scenario, he got the high side of his power supply in the water.


    EDIT i see NTL got there ahead of me. :)
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
  10. Mar 18, 2017 #9
    Awhile back, a U.K.-based EE on another forum I participate in told me that the U.K. tends to be more rigorous than the U.S. in its standards for GFCI in old buildings as well as new. Obviously that's a very general observation & doesn't speak to this particular situation.
  11. Mar 18, 2017 #10
  12. Mar 18, 2017 #11
    It's not quite clear, is it?! Oh, I wish for more technically-minded journalists...

    If he had the trailing socket on his chest, charger plugged in, then a) that is catastrophically stupid, and b) I don't get the talk of sending Apple a letter about safety, nor the comments about there 'only being a transformer between you and the mains'. He got a shock from the trailing socket. No transformer or Apple product involved.
  13. Mar 18, 2017 #12
    Tell them to put a warning in the instructions?:

    "Don't plug this in and take it in the bath with you?"

    There are all sorts of very obvious remarks we could make about stupidity here, but the fact is, there is no need to change the instructions of any device, or any laws, or to berate any manufacturers. All we need is for responsible adults to behave as such.

    *Gets on soapbox* Our current risk-averse legislative climate is so tight, and the injury lawyers are so close over our shoulders, that daily life, if possible, has become 'too' safe. Every hole in the ground has a fence, signs and lights; every downed branch has reflective tape on it and a bored man directing you round it. People walk along the street looking at nothing but their phones, expecting not to trip, fall or bang into something in doing so. Our danger perception is blunted. Look at the idiots who went on a winter car journey in T-shirts - no torches, warm clothing, spare wheel, food or basic recovery gear. They nearly died from a puncture. This poor man may have been an adult in other ways, but he had a child's idea of risk.
  14. Mar 18, 2017 #13
    He dropped the extension lead (mains Voltage) into the bath. The fact that he was charging a phone is immaterial.
  15. Mar 18, 2017 #14

    jim hardy

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    From Willem 's Sun link:
    5 volts at an amp from low voltage side of the charger won't do that . .
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