News Item - Lake and Dockside Safety
Submitted on 2012-07-11 by OVEC
Emergency responders also report fatalities and less serious injuries aboard watercraft. A 56 year old man swimming from the stern of a boat in Lake Michigan was electrocuted because of wiring on the boat. Investigators found a neutral wire that was grounded to the boat had energized the metal trim. In a similar mishap a 14 year old boy died of electric shock on an Arkansas houseboat because the grounding pin on an electrical plug had been disabled and the grounded neutral wire energized the hull.
These examples of electric shock drowning occur when a low level of current either flows through the water or the metal on a boat, disabling the muscle function of swimmers. It is often caused by an undetected ground fault, which could be prevented by a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI.) “An important step to ensure safety around swimming pools and boat docks is to include ground fault circuit interrupter protection. Make sure the GFCI is professionally installed to prevent shock, electrocution and injury,” says professional electrical inspector Mike Ashenfelter, a member of the Safe Electricity Advisory Board.
In addition to poorly installed and maintained electrical wiring, another common cause of electric shock drowning is faulty boat wiring that is not in compliance with American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards. The ABYC advises boat owners wanting to modify electrical outlets that, “The most important thing to look for when purchasing an outlet box for your boat is the UL mark. In a 120V system you will want to look for the UL 514 mark on the outlets and the boxes. Using products with this mark eliminates the chance of an un-marked product failing and causing an unsafe situation.
When wiring or upgrading electrical service on docks, the ABYC says that wiring on lakeside boat docks should be done by a professional. The same is true for the installation of electrical wiring around a home swimming pool, including the necessary ground fault protection. A GFCI would likely have saved the life of 12 year old Caitlin Mackenzie, who was wet from swimming at a home pool, and suffered a fatal shock when she moved an electric light. A GFCI cuts the circuit before an electrical shock can occur.
If you plan to go boating or fishing this summer, be aware of your surroundings and potential electrical hazards. “Always check the location of nearby power lines before boating or fishing,” says Molly Hall. “Contact between your boat and a power line could be devastating.”
Maintain a distance of at least ten feet between your boat and nearby power lines to be safe. If your boat contacts a power line, never jump out of the boat into the water – the water could be energized. Instead, stay in the boat and avoid touching anything metal until help arrives or until your boat is no longer in contact with the line. Also, check for the location of power lines before fishing. Make sure you are casting the line away from power lines to avoid potential contact.