Get Familiar with Electric Shock Drowning

Boats docked at marina

Boating is often considered to be a fun, carefree activity during the spring and summer months, but there are many electrical hazards that must be considered before leaving the dock – particularly in fresh water.

Both boat owners and marina owners can play a part in the safety of swimmers. Here are some tips to reduce the risk of electric shock drowning and common boat electrical hazards.

Electrical Safety Tips for Boat Operators

  • Don’t allow yourself or anyone else to swim near the dock.
  • Check the location of nearby power lines before boating, fishing or swimming. Always maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines.
  • If you feel a tingle while swimming, get out of the water as soon as possible, avoiding the use of metal objects such as ladders. Notify the owner of the property immediately.
  • Have your boat’s electrical system inspected and upgraded by a certified marine electrician regularly to be sure they meet your local and state NEC, NFPA and ABYC safety code and standards.
  • Have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) installed on your boat and insist that your marina/ dock owners have them installed on the dock. Test them once a month.
  • Use “UL-Marine Listed” portable GFCIs when using electricity near water. This will decrease the chances of shock or electrocution.
  • Consider having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters (ELCI) installed on boats to protect nearby swimmers from potential electricity leakage into water surrounding your boat.

Electrical Safety Tips for Marina Owners

  • Post signs prohibiting swimming to help prevent an electric shock drowning incident. Place warning signs in prominent areas around your marina such as: “ELECTRIC SHOCK HAZARD RISK: DO NOT SWIM.”
  • Have your dockside electrical system (pedestal) inspected and updated by a qualified electrician annually.
  • If you question the safety of your dock’s electrical system, immediately turn off the power supply at the electrical panel. Do not turn it back on until it has been checked by a certified marine electrician.
  • Immediately fix all electrical safety hazards and maintain routine inspections to prevent problems before they occur.
  • Never stand or swim in water when turning off electrical devices or switches.
  • Plan annual safety events at your marina where owners can learn about boat and dock electrical safety, and have their boats inspected by licensed electricians.

For additional Loss Control guidance, please visit the Plan & Protect safety hub.

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