Marinas, Boatyards, and Dock Safety

According to KOMU TV8 reporter Sara Rooney, who gave a report on August 31, 2021, on drownings at the Lake of the Ozarks, a regional tourist location that has seen an increase in drownings. As of the date of the report, in 2021 there were already 10 drownings, with 5 of those drownings occurring in the month of August alone.

The issue is that Electrical Shock Drowning (ESD) is not recorded by the CDC for accurate statistical analysis. The CDC does record Unintentional Drownings and from that data, they say that there are 10 deaths per day attributed to ESD.

With so many ways for electricity to energize a pool of water, it is truly critical to perform annual inspections, adhere to Code Standards, and properly care for and maintain all equipment and structures. Here are a few ways water may become energized:

  • Electricity serving the dock
  • Electricity leaching off a boat motor or battery system
  • Electrical cable passing through the water way

An important step in helping prevent such tragedies is to ensure proper installation and maintenance of electrical equipment on docks and on boats. Take the time to inspect all electrical systems on or near the water. It is recommended to adhere to these steps to improve water recreation safety and accident prevention:

  • All electrical installations should be performed by a professional electrical contractor familiar with marine codes and standards, and inspected at least once a year, Terrell Electric highly recommends twice a year (put it in to service and take it out of service).
  • Docks should have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) breakers on the circuits feeding electricity to the dock.
  • The metal frame of docks should be bonded to connect all metal parts to the alternating current (AC) safety ground at the power source. That will ensure 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 should comply with NFPA and NEC codes.

Here are a few additional tips to remember for your boat’s electrical system, particularly those with 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 to or removed from their systems.
  • Boats with AC systems should have isolation transformers or equipment leakage circuit interrupter (ELCI) protection, comply with American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) standards, and be serviced by an ABYC Certified® Technician.

If you are in the water and feel electric current:

  • Shout to let others know.
  • Tuck your legs up to make yourself smaller.
  • Try to go away from anything that could be energized.
  • Do not head to boat or dock ladders to get out.

If you are on the dock or shore when a swimmer feels electrical current:

  • Do not jump in.
  • Throw them a flotation device.
  • Unplug or turn off the source of electricity as quickly as possible.
  • Then call for help.