Hot tubs are fun and relaxing additions to your at-home spa or neighborhood swimming pool, but they can be very dangerous. One hot tub danger that gets overlooked by new hot tub owners and users alike is electrocution.
Hot tub and pool areas are full of many different ways to be electrocuted—especially if you have an at-home spa—and if you are not very careful someone could be seriously injured or even die.
When I got a hot tub added on to my home, I made sure to research all of the possible dangers and the one that shocked me—no pun intended—the most was electrocution. Even though there are many ways to prevent getting electrocuted in your at-home spa or in a public hot tub, it is a very common hot tub accident.
The easiest way to prevent getting electrocuted is to exercise caution and monitor both the physical hot tub and the people enjoying it.
According to the New York Times, 6,646 people went to the hospital because of hot tub injuries in 2006. With these helpful tips and rules, you can make sure that you and any of your loved ones do not end up in the hospital due to hot tub electrocution.
Can You Get Electrocuted in a Hot Tub?
The answer is simple. Yes, you can definitely get electrocuted in a hot tub. When this happens, it is very scary for the person being electrocuted and for anyone else around who does not know how to help.
If you are around when a person starts getting electrocuted in a hot tub, Mayo Clinic suggests these steps:
- Take Caution
Though you may want to help your friend or family member as soon as you see them in danger, it is important that you do not touch the injured person while they are still in contact with the electrical current.
Touching them while they are still connected to the open electrical current will only cause you to be connected to it as well. Instead, try to find something long and sturdy that is made of rubber, glass, or plastic for your friend to grab on to and help you to pull them to safety. These materials are poor conductors of electricity and will be safe for both of you to touch.
If you can safely turn off the power, do so. If you can’t turn it off safely, get as far away from the open electrical current as you possibly can
- Call Emergency Services
After you have gotten everyone away from the electrical current safely, call 911 or your local emergency number if the source of the electricity is a high-voltage wire or lightning. It is absolutely imperative that you don’t get near high-voltage wires until the power is completely turned off. Since overhead power lines typically aren’t insulated, you should stay at least 20 feet away. If 20 feet doesn’t seem like enough space, trust your instincts and move farther away.
If the source of the electricity is a low-voltage wire, it is still dangerous, but you could instead call an electrician to safely fix that problem. However, you will still need to call 911 so that the person who was injured can receive medical attention.
- Monitor Your Friend
After getting electrocuted, many health problems could follow. Immediately after being pulled from the electrical current you should begin CPR if the person shows no signs of circulation, such as breathing, coughing or movement.
You will also want to try to keep them from getting too cold and apply sterile bandages to any burns they may have. Be sure not to use anything with loose fibers like a towel or blanket because those fibers can stick to burns.
After the initial trip to the hospital, your friend may still have some health issues from the electrical shock. Take the affected person back to the hospital if they experience any of the following:
- Severe burns
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- Cardiac arrest
- Muscle pain and contractions
- Loss of consciousness
Another thing to worry about when electrical problems happen in a hot tub is electric shock drowning.
According to WedMD, electric shock drowning is what happens when a person gets shocked with electricity while being in water. The electric shock causes the person’s body to go into paralysis and without functioning mobility, the person will begin to sink and drown.
As you can see, the question shouldn’t be if electrocution is possible, it should be how it happens and how can it be avoided.
Most Common Ways Hot Tub Electrocutions Happen
There are many different ways that people can get electrocuted in a hot tub, whether it is at-home or in a public area. The best way to prevent these accidents are to be aware of how they can happen.
I am going to list some of the most common ways that people get electrocuted in hot tubs and pools. I won’t be listing these in a ranking order of most to least dangerous or anything like that so please pay attention to each one of them carefully.
- Wiring Problems
Wires and hot tub do not mix well. Whether the hot tub you are in is inside or outside, there is always a possibility for a wiring problem to pose a threat to anyone relaxing in the hot tub. There are some wiring problems that are more common for inside tubs as well as outside tubs.
A common wiring issue that can lead to electrocution when dealing with outside hot tubs are down wires or power lines. Neighborhoods all over the world are run by some sort of connected power grid which has millions of miles of power lines. Each of those power lines are connected to the continuously generating electricity created by the power grid.
If there is ever a storm or heavy wind or any accident near some of these power lines, they will fall down and become a downed wire. A downed wire is a power line that is down on the ground but still live with electricity.
Sometimes during these storms or accidents, downed wires fall into pools and hot tubs. When this happens, the water that is in the hot tub becomes a conductor of the electricity that is coming from the live wire. If someone were to get into the hot tub without noticing the downed wire, they would be electrocuted immediately.
Power lines typically put out between 4,800 volts and 13,200 volts of electricity. For comparison, the electric chairs used for the death sentence only use up to 2,200 volts of electricity.
If you are soaking in an indoor hot tub, there are also dangers of encounter live wires. In 2003, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission warned pool and hot tub owners about faulty underwater lighting.
In their report, they sited an incident where a 14 year-old girl in Texas was electrocuted and the 16 year-old boy who tried to save her was seriously shocked because of a faulty wire in an underwater lighting fixture. Luckily, both teens were saved and not badly harmed.
- During Hot Tub Repairs
Though you are not in the hot tub, repairing the equipment of the hot tub is another way many people get electrocuted. This specific way of electrocution may not affect you if you do not do you own repairs, but it is something that could happen to your helpful, handy friend or your electrician.
Hot tub problems that involve electricity usually deal with the breaker switch. The breaker switch is the part of your hot tub that controls the electricity coming from the power source to your hot tub. If your hot tub’s breaker switch senses any issues with the electrical current, it will shut off power to your hot tub to keep you safe.
This is obviously a very important hot tub function, but, when it breaks, it can be very dangerous. Water can often pool in the area where the breaker is or the wires leading to and from the breaker can become frayed as time goes on. Breaker switch repairs can be very dangerous so be sure to have a professional handle those issues.
- Lightning Storms
Many hot tub owners bought their own private hot tub so that they can use their tub whenever they want. Hot tubbing during a light winter snowfall or sprinkling of rain is a nice way to enjoy your hot tub while enjoying some of Mother Nature’s relaxing weather.
While it is fine to have fun in your hot tub during light precipitation, it can take a very dangerous turn. If the small rainfall you were expecting turns into a thunderstorm, you put yourself and anyone else you invite to your tub in a very dangerous position.
Lightening is a naturally occurring electric charge or current. Water is an excellent conductor of electricity. If lighting were to strike your hot tub, the charge of electricity would be concentrated within the 15 to 20-foot radius of the initial striking point.
That large radius would not only include your tub but most of the area around the tub as well. So even if someone was not inside the hot tub, they could still receive a shock from the lightning strike. Since electrical currents usually spread out along the surface of the water that they are in, even the person outside of the tub would get a jolt of electricity throughout their entire body.
According to the National Weather Service, the odds getting struck by lighting in any given year is about 1 in 1,222,000 and the odds of getting struck in your entire life is only 1 in 15,300, but those odds go up if you happen to be in a hot tub or pool when lightning strikes.
Only about 10 percent of people struck by lightning actually die, which means that you could survive, but that would leave you vulnerable to many disabilities from your injuries.
- Electrical Appliances
Creating a nice outdoor area for your hot tub is easy with a few small gadgets and appliances, but just like these things can change the environment of your hot tub area, they can also make it more dangerous.
The biggest danger from the appliances is not the appliances themselves, but what can happen if they get into contact with water. Electrical appliances pull electricity from the outlet and uses it to power its functions, while this is happening, the electrical current is constantly running through the appliance while also be held by the appliance.
If an electrical appliance is introduced to water while plugged into an outlet, even if the appliance is not on, the electricity from the appliance will flow into the water in search for a place to be grounded. Since a human body is a low resistance path, the current will flow into whoever is in the hot tub and they will be electrocuted.
- Outlet Issues
An outlet is an open circuit that connects to the electrical power from the power grid. If water were to find its way into the outlet it could be dangerous and cause serious damages. This problem is more common with hot tubs that were added on to a home.
Homes that were built with a hot tub already apart of the blueprint would have considered where all the safest places for outlets would be and built them a safe distance from the hot tub. However, when you add a hot tub on to your home, you have to make the hot tub fit into the electrical grid that your home already has. That can be tricky.
The path to electrocution from an electrical outlet is a bit different, but still very common. If water were to splash from the tub into the outlet, the electricity would quickly move through the water to its source, which would be the tub.
According to Southern California Edison, electricity travels at the same speed of light. At 186,000 miles per second, even if the connection between your hot tub, the splash of water, and the outlet only last for a second, the electricity would flow through the tub faster than it would travel through 3 million football fields.
If water were to get into an electrical outlet, it could also short the electricity in your entire home or start a fire which would cost a lot of money to repair.
- Self-Installed Hot Tubs
Everyone loves a do-it-yourself project, but when it comes to something as complicated as installing a hot tub, I would recommend leaving it to the professionals. It is possible to install your own hot tub, but if you chose to do it yourself you have to understand all of the electrical problems that may occur.
While installing a hot tub yourself, you become responsible for the electricity wired to it and since most hot tub aren’t luxuries that can simply be plugged in, it can get very complicated. The biggest complication when setting up your own electrical unit is being absolutely sure that there is a proper grounding for your hot tub.
The grounding of your hot tub is not where the hot tub will go when it gets into trouble. The grounding is “an additional path for the electrical circuit to flow into the earth so as to not endanger anyone working with the electricity nearby in the event of a short circuit” according to Performance Wire and Cable.
Short circuits can occur is private residence hot tubs even when they are installed by trained professionals, so hopping that a circuit won’t short is not an option. Again, I recommend hiring a professional to install your hot tub.
If the do-it-yourself spirit is still in you, I would suggest calling an electrician in for the electricity aspect of setting up your hot tub and also call a city inspector to come check and make sure that your at-home spa is up to code.
5 Ways to Prevent Hot Tub Electrocution
Now that you have a basic understanding of how dangerous and common hot tub electrocution is, I am going to give you some tips on how to prevent electrocution in your hot tub. These five tips are a combination of all of the helpful information that I have learned from my research.
I am not listing these in any particular order, so please read each of them very carefully.
Tip 1: Respect All Storms
If you are going to keep your hot tub open all year so that you may enjoy it in different weathers, then be sure to do it as safely as possible. Early I talked about how some people find that it can be nice to soak in your hot tub during a light rain. If you want to try that, you must properly prepare to do so.
Always be sure to check for all weather advisories before even considering getting into your hot tub during the rain. What may look like a light sprinkle of cool rain can easily turn into a bustling lightning storm depending on where you live.
When you check the weather advisories, look for any possible storms not only in your area but in the areas surrounding as well. If there is a possibility of a storm nearby, do not get into your hot tub. As we stated before, lightning travels at 186,000 miles per second so any storms in the surrounding areas could pose a threat..
To be as safe as you can, do not use your hot tub again until all possible lightning storms have passed and are no longer a threat. To protect your tub from any possible damage during the storm, be sure to cover and lock up your tub.
Tip 2: Only Get Battery-Operated Appliances
I assume that when I mentioned the dangers of appliances before, you probably crossed them off of the list of things to get for your hot tub. If you did, it’s time to make a new list! While electric appliances are a danger to have near your hot tub, there are many safe, battery-powered appliances that you can have in your hot tub area.
It is much safer to use battery-powered appliances around your hot tub area because they do not come with the same issues of regular electric appliances.
While electric appliances get their power from an outlet that is connected to the all-powerful power grid, battery-powered appliances use—you guessed it—batteries! If a battery-operated appliance were to fall into your hot tub, you will not be electrocuted because the electrical current in a battery is finite and not very strong.
While it won’t hurt you if a battery-powered appliance fell into your hot tub, it can still cause some problems. Small batteries like AAA, AA, C, and D would typically be the kind to power your appliances. Those kinds of batteries are usually about 98 percent solid with tiny vent holes and air spaces on the positive ends.
If the battery is left in the water for too long, water can get into the battery which can cause it to eventually explode. Or, the chemicals and acids could eventually leak out into the hot tub and cause burns.
When a battery-operated appliance falls into your hot tub, don’t worry about electrocution but still move quickly to remove the appliance to avoid other complications.
Tip 3: Be Careful After Storms
As we talked about before, downed power lines and live wires can pose a huge threat to the safety of you and your loved ones. These things happen especially after thunder or lightning storms.
If a storm has happened in your area recently, be very careful the next time you head out to your hot tub. Make sure to check the entire surrounding area to be sure that there are no exposed electrical currents that could hurt you or anyone else around.
As long as you properly secured your hot tub’s cover, there shouldn’t be anything dangerous inside your hot tub. In cases where the storm was powerful enough to remove your cover and a power line or any wire has fallen into your tub, call emergency services immediately.
If there are an open electrical currents present anywhere in your hot tub area, turn off all of the power and call emergency services and the electric company immediately. If you find that it is too difficult for you to safely turn off the power, do not try to. Wait until a professional comes out to do it for you.
Tip:4 Always Supervise Others
It’s always a great time to have friends come over and have fun in your hot tub, but it is important that you are always there with them. As a responsible owner, you will know everything about your tub and what to do if an emergency happens while others may not.
This tip does not only apply to children, as most tips about supervision usually do. Anyone of any age could be electrocuted if they aren’t being safe. To avoid anyone getting electrocuted, do not allow anyone to be in your hot tub without your supervision.
While you are with your friends, be sure to monitor the things they bring into the hot tub area and how they behave around the dangerous elements of the hot tub like the breaker switch or extension cords.
For an extra measure of safety, go over your safety plan with them while you soak in the tub. That way, you can educate them on ways that they can be safe while using your hot tub or others and still have a great time.
Tip 5: Always Be Prepared
The moment when you or a loved one is being electrocuted is a terrible time to find the hot tub’s owner’s manual and find out where the electrical switch is or search for a non-conductive cane to help them.
When you decide to get a hot tub, you need to learn everything you can about your hot tub. Always know where the electrical switches and circuit breakers connected to your hot tub are and how to turn them off.
I suggest having a hot tub safety drill before letting your friends or family into the hot tub. Check to make sure that all systems are running smoothly and that the power can easily, quickly, and safely be turned off if necessary.
Also make sure that you have any and all tools that you may need on hand. Some things that you will need in case someone gets electrocuted at your hot tub are:
- A phone to use that is not connected to the same power source as the hot tub
- A long and sturdy stick or hook that is made of rubber, glass, or plastic
- A first aid kit with burn cream and sterile gauzes
- A Mylar emergency blanket
By having just these few things prepared before you allow people into your hot tub, you can ensure the safety of everyone who enjoys the hot tub with you.