Since May is National Electrical Safety Month, GVEC urges you to take a moment to consider electrical safety of another sort. Each year people are killed by electrical shock while in the water near docks. Exposure to the elements and water movement can degrade the condition of electrical wires and components, allowing the electricity to energize any surrounding metal.

One of the best places to enjoy summer fun is in the water—but the hidden hazard of electric shock drowning is always possible when recreation takes place near docks with electric access for boats. Without proper inspection and supervision, these electrical systems can allow electricity to present a hazard for anyone in the vicinity. That’s why it is so important for anyone participating in water recreation activities to learn more about this.

  • Take the time to inspect all electrical systems on or near the water to ensure they are safe. It is also recommended individuals do not swim around docks with electrical equipment or boats plugged into shore power.
  • All electrical installations should be performed by a licensed electrician familiar with marine codes and standards, and should be inspected at least once a year.
  • Docks should have ground fault circuit interrupters on the circuits and/or outlets that feed electricity to the dock.
  • The metal frames of docks should be bonded to connect all metal parts to the alternating current safety ground at the power source. That will ensure that any part of the metal dock that becomes energized because of electrical malfunction will trip the circuit breaker.
  • Neighboring docks can also present a shock hazard. Make your neighbors aware of the need for safety inspections and maintenance. Marinas are required to comply with the National Fire Protection Association Code and the National Electrical Code.

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind for your boat’s electrical system, particularly those with alternating current (AC) systems:

  • Regardless of the size of boat, maintenance of the electrical system should be done by a professional familiar with marine electrical codes.
  • Have your boat’s electrical system checked at least once a year. Boats should also be checked when something is added or removed on their systems.
  • Boats with AC electric systems should have isolation transformers or equipment leakage circuit interrupter protection. All equipment should comply with American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards, and should be serviced by an ABYC-certified technician.
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