Common Safety Hazards In A Bathroom (You May Not Have Considered)

Occupational Therapist
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There is more to consider with bathroom safety than toilets, tubs, and fall prevention. Learn more about some of the hidden but common safety hazards in a bathroom.

Common Safety Hazards In A Bathroom
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Did you know that many of the common safety hazards in your bathroom are hiding in plain sight?

We’re not just talking about slippery floors and missing grab bars, which are frequent topics of discussion for seniors and elderly folks.

This article will discuss a wide array of bathroom safety hazards to help draw seniors’ attention to the issues and why you should correct such risks immediately to establish safe bathrooms for seniors and the elderly.

Common Bathroom Safety Hazards for Seniors

Mold

The bathroom is a nice, closed-off space where the perfect amount of warmth and condensation builds up over time, creating the perfect environment for mold spores to develop.

Not only does mold damage the interior aspects of your home, but it can also be highly toxic for many people and cause serious illness. To prevent mold from building up in your bathroom:

  1. Make sure the room is well-ventilated during showers.
  2. Inspect your walls, corners, cracks, and crevices for any darkened or speckled spots.
  3. Suppose you feel ill, nauseous, dizzy, or have headaches after using your bathroom.

In that case, it may be time to have a professional inspect your home for mold spores. 

Soap Scum

Maintaining a clean bathroom is challenging, and letting things go for a time is alright. However, if you don’t take the opportunity to scrub and wash down your tub and shower, soap scum can build up on the surface.

Not only is the appearance gross, but the texture of soap scum is very slick, which makes your tub or shower plate a major fall hazard. Work in a regular cleaning schedule for your bathroom, even if this means having a loved one or professional taking care of the hard-to-reach places. 

Non-Regulated Air Fresheners

Although air fresheners help give that bathroom an extra boost and ambiance, be very choosy about which air fresheners you use. Don’t go with anything cheap or non-regulated.

They could increase your risk for a fire hazard and exposure to toxic chemicals that get exposed once plugged into an outlet. This is especially concerning for the bathroom since this is a closed-off space that doesn’t always get well-ventilated.

In summary, if you’re going to get an air freshener, spend the money and get a really nice one.

common safety hazards in a bathroom faulty electrical wires
Get your faulty electrical wires at home fixed as soon as possible.

Exposed or Faulty Electrical Wires

No matter what room of the house you are in, you should never have to live under a roof with exposed or faulty wires. Prioritize your household projects and get faulty electrical wires fixed pronto!

The bathroom is of enormous concern since electricity, the human body, and water don’t mix. Talk to a professional and get your bathroom electricity managed. 

Loose Grab Bars

Loose grab bars would be the worst, especially if they were installed incorrectly and not firmly planted into the wall studs.

Grab bars, which are important bathroom safety products for seniors, should be reliable external supports for seniors with questionable balance or for those who need a little extra assistance while walking across slick floors.

If you rely on your grab bars and they are not correctly installed, have a professional come in and yank them out for correct measurements and installment. 

Scalding Water

Scalding hot water from the sink, tub, or shower can result in severe, life-threatening burns. This danger is especially concerning for seniors with compromised tactile sensation and temperature discrimination.

Scalding water could result from a faulty temperature regulator on the water heater or other plumbing issues. Contact a professional about proper temperature regulation before a shower or bath lands you in the hospital burn unit. 

Lack of GFCI Outlets

GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) outlets have been required for household electrical wiring use since the 1970s. GFCI outlets interrupt an electric current when a short occurs to prevent fatal electrical shocks.

In older homes, some outlets may not be updated to GFCI standards, which can be a significant safety hazard in the bathroom. Contact your local electrician to get your outlets updated. 

Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing or water leaks can cause slippery floors, aid in accumulating soap scum, and harbor toxic mold. Inspect your faucets and fixtures for any unwanted drips.

Have a professional come in and inspect any internal plumbing you can’t see, especially if your plumbing is 10+ years old. You should check older homes closely too. 

Throw Rugs

As pretty as some throw rug designs are, they have no business being in any elderly person’s home.

Throw rugs are a major tripping hazard because they usually lack non-slip material, causing people to slip, trip, or slide all over the place when walked upon. Remove all throw rugs from your bathroom. In fact, remove them ALL from your home!

common safety hazards in a bathroom clutter
Keep clutter away from walking spaces in the bathroom.

Clutter

Most bathrooms are already small enough at their cleanest. Make efforts to avoid clutter build-up on the floor since this can cause a significant fall hazard.

Remove anything in your bathroom that you do not immediately need for toileting, hand-washing, or bathing purposes. Place everything in their designated drawers or cupboards.

If you live with small children or pets, establish rules about keeping toys out of the bathroom and away from all surrounding walking spaces. 

Improperly Installed Curtains

Improperly hung or installed shower curtains can disorient and trip up seniors who are trying to shower or bathe in the bathroom. Make sure the curtain can easily slide across the rod without getting caught on any lips.

Check to see if the curtain is actually doing its job in blocking water from dripping onto the floor to prevent slips and falls. 

Dim or Poor Lighting

Take the time to install the correct light bulbs in your bathroom. Poorly lit bathrooms, combined with seniors with poor vision, typically equals ground-level falls.

Approximately 12-watt LED light bulbs tend to do the job since their lifespan is longer than incandescent bulbs, and the brightness isn’t too intrusive. 

RELATED: What Should You Do If You Fall In The Bathroom

High Thresholds

Higher thresholds at the doorway, the shower, or the tub ledge can cause an increased risk of trips, loss of balance, and falls. You cannot do much about these thresholds for many folks because remodeling is an expensive venture to remedy the issue.

For seniors with high thresholds, this means adapting to the problem by increasing the lighting in the bathroom, taking steps slowly and methodically, and using adaptive equipment (i.e., bath benches, ramps, etc.).

Loose Flooring

Loose or broken tiles, linoleum, or vinyl flooring can cause you to trip, slide, or fall in the bathroom. Some folks can usually cover up minor problems with non-slip mats, especially if those problems are small cracks.

However, suppose you have large pieces of flooring that are buckling, bubbling, or completely removed. In that case, it’s probably time to update the floor. 

Summary and Final Recommendations

Call a professional if you live in an older home, and it’s been a while since your bathroom has had some well-deserved TLC.

Don’t risk your safety or the safety of other family members by putting up with leaks, faulty wiring, and poor interior work. Put your health and fall prevention care first.

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Meredith Chandler, OTR/L

Meredith has worked as an occupational therapist for 9 years and as a content writer for 6 years. She primarily works with the geriatric population, focusing on their rehabilitative needs and instructing caregivers and family members for home care. Her specialties include ADL training, neurological re-education, functional mobility training, adaptive equipment education, and wheelchair assessment and mobility training. She is a painter, a musician, and a mother of 4 who loves spending time with her family,

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