no, a wall sconce can't be installed. The 3" x 8" rule applies for certain fixtures. Read 410.4.(of the top of my head, maybe not right section but it should be close to that)
Wall sconces are not prohibited from 'the area'
410.4(D) Bathtub and Shower Areas. No parts of cord-connected luminaires (fixtures), hanging luminaires (fixtures), lighting track, pendants, or ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans shall be located within a zone measured 900 mm (3 ft) horizontally and 2.5 m (8 ft) vertically from the top of the bathtub rim or shower stall threshold. This zone is all encompassing and includes the zone directly over the tub or shower stall.
Bob Badger Construction & Maintenance Electrician Massachusetts
The code cannot, ever, be expected to specifically address every possible contingency. So, we have to look at the context of the code, as well as similar applications, and make our interpretations from there.
Secondly, this is a far from perfect world, and sometimes we just have to make do with something less than ideal. Again, only with the proper education, training, and experience can we attempt to "compensate."
First of all, the location: Let's see, just how "damp" is your hand likely to be, or your feet (while standing in the tub) when the switch is operated? Heck, if I could, I'd want such a switch to be not just 'damp' or 'wet' rated, but submersible!
Looking at a similar application -the part of the code that deals with pools and spas- we see that the code wants the lights themselves to be totally enclosed (weatherproof), as well as on a GFI. Not a bad idea here, either.
And not just a "GFI switch" either...I'd want the circuit feeding the switch GFI protected, with the GFI in another room, well out of reach.
Even if you could somehow guarantee that there would never, ever be a wet hand touching that switch, condensation will be drawn into that switch as a fly to a cowpie....best to have that switch totally sealed and gasketed as well. One of those outdoor covers with the lever comes to mind, or an industrial selector switch. (FWIW, the latest such covers are raised about 1/4", and will accept a normal switch).
My preferred choice, though would be to MOVE THE SWITCH.
The Code restricts the location of fixtures not the switches. Wall switches may be located within the three foot radius of the tub. EXCEPT in manufactured housing (HUD) which has a regulation prohibiting it. It is a design consideration. Damp or wet location restrictions may apply to the switch construction & location. Alan-- Bathroom GFI receptacles are frequently installed within three feet of the tub
[This message has been edited by Alan Nadon (edited 02-11-2006).]
My home, which was was built in the early '60's, has the light switch for the main bathroom located directly above the rim of the tub. I've wanted to move it, but there is no other place to put it unless you want to walk halfway through a dark bathroom to get to the switch. So I guess I'll leave it where it is for now.
I would say that the intention of the code is to keep ALL electrical devices - except those specifically rated and permitted - out of "the zone." Granted, that many bathroom designs pretty much require that the receptacle or switch end up inside the zone, in which case, I guess we just have to deal with it.