Boating and marina safety

New resources help boaters avoid electrical dangers
Boating and marina safety

For many, swimming and boating are synonymous with summer fun. However, there are many electrical hazards that come along with these leisurely warm weather activities that can result in grave consequences such as onboard electrical fires and electric shock drowning.

With that in mind, Electric Safety Foundation International offers new, free, downloadable resources to help swimmers, marina operators and boaters prevent and/or avoid electrical hazards associated with swimming and boating. Offerings include separately illustrated tip sheets on electrical safety, a reference guide on boat and marina electrical safety devices and and a tool kit with information about electric shock drowning.

"Although there are reported incidents every year, there is a lack of awareness about the dangers of electric shock drowning," said ESFI president Brett Brenner. "Our objective is to educate boat operators and marina owners about the precautions they can take to prevent these incidents and other electrical injuries while out on the water."

Prevent electric shock drowning

Most electric shock drowning deaths have occurred at public and private marinas and docks.

The typical victim is a child swimming at a marina or dock where electricity is present. The electricity that enters the water and causes the drowning originates from the wiring of the dock or marina, or from boats connected to the marina's or dock's power supply.

To help prevent drowning and injuries, marinas and docks can post "No Swimming" signs and hold special events where boat owners have a licensed electrician inspect their boats.

Electricity and water don't mix

Here are some safety tips.

  • Have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) installed on your boat and test them once a month.
  • Always maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines.
  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat.
  • Don't swim near or around marina docks or docks where electricity is present.
  • If you feel a tingle while swimming, the water may be electrified. Get out as soon as possible, avoiding the use of metal objects such as ladders.
  • Consider having Equipment Leakage Circuit Interrupters (ELCI) installed on boats to protect nearby swimmers from potential electricity leakage into water surrounding your boat.
  • Use only shore or marine power cords, plugs, receptacles and extension cords that have been tested by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or ETL SEMKO (ETL).
  • Never use cords that are frayed or damaged or that have had the prongs removed or altered.
  • Never stand or swim in water when turning off electrical devices or switches.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) is dedicated to promoting electrical safety in the home and the workplace. ESFI engages in public education campaigns throughout the year to prevent electrical fires, injuries and fatalities.

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