May 18th, 2012
It is important to remember that water is a powerful conductor of electricity, and it is especially important to be aware of electrical hazards while participating in water activities. Unfortunately, sometimes those reminders come in the form of tragedy.
For instance, there is the story of a 13-year-old Oklahoma boy who died after he jumped from a boat dock into a lake to swim. The dock lights were on at the time. He immediately surfaced and was screaming, then submerged and did not resurface. An adult who entered the water to assist the boy felt an electrical current and called to others to turn off the dock lights. Power company employees inspected the electrical system for the dock lights, and they identified a short in the wiring. The wiring was in contact with the dock’s metal frame and transmitted sufficient electrical current into the water to cause a shock. The medical examiner listed the boy’s cause of death as drowning, possibly secondary to electrical shock.
“Take the time to make sure that the dock area is safe. This means making sure electrical connections are properly installed and safely maintained,” adds Molly Hall, executive director of the Safe Electricity program. “Your loved ones’ lives just might depend on it.”
Even if you are just renting the dock, it is important that you notify the dock owner of any safety violations so that they can be fixed immediately. If the owner will not make the corrections or properly maintain the dock, you should strongly consider moving your boat to a dock that will.
Assessing electrical hazards near areas of water is a wise investment of time and personal effort. While regulations might vary by location the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that electricity-related drowning can be prevented by regular inspections for ground-fault failure and by strict enforcement of the National Electric Code through frequent inspections of pools and docks.
Safe Electricity offers the following additional tips to stay safe while boating:
- When 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. Contact between your boat and a power line could be devastating, even deadly. Maintain a distance of at least 10 feet between your boat and nearby power lines to be safe.
- If your boat does come in contact with 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 power line.
- Before you cast your fishing line, always check the location of power lines and make sure you are casting away from them to avoid contact.
- Be sure dockside outlets have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection, and check cords that are plugged into them to make sure there is no broken or cracked casing and that there are no exposed wires. Have dockside electrical systems installed by professional electricians guided by the National Electric Code, and have these systems inspected regularly to avoid tragedy.
Find more electrical safety information at SafeElectricity.org.
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