For many of us, water activities equal fun. But it’s important to be aware of electrical hazards while enjoying the water. Electric shock drowning (ESD) can occur when faulty wiring sends an electrical current into the water. The current then passes through the body, causing paralysis, and results in drowning. As little as 10 milliamps (1/50th the current used by a 60 watt light bulb) can cause paralysis/drowning and sixty milliamps
in the body can cause heart failure. Potential electrical hazards exist in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, on-board boats and in the waters surrounding boats, marinas and launch ramps.
Tips for swimmers
· Never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard, or near a boat while it’s running.
· Obey all “no swimming signs” on docks.
Tips for boat owners
· Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification.
· Each year, and after a major storm, have the boat’s electrical system inspected and upgraded by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council (ABYC). Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina’s electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code (NEC).
· Know where your main breaker(s) are located on both the boat and the shore power source so you can respond quickly in case of an emergency.
· Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on your boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are “UL-Marine Listed” when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.
Tips for swimmers around pools, hot tubs, and spas
· Look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker or work intermittently.
· If tingling occurs, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling, Exit the water as quickly as possible and avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.
· Do not swim before, during or after thunderstorms.