Electrical Shock In Water

Integrated Fire SystemsFire & Life Safety Updates

How to Protect Yourself Against Electrical Shock in Water

Summertime often leads to water activities which involve swimming and boating in lakes and oceans. While out on the water many people take safety precautions against drowning, but not as many people take precautions for electrical shock drownings.

NFPA reports that, “electrical shock drownings can occur when marina electrical systems leak electrical current into the water. Boats can also serve as the source of an electrical leakage. Leakage can cause shock that can injure, disable, or kill a person”. Because of these dangers, electrical safety around water is extremely important no matter what activity you are participating in or what type of water you are around.

Ponds, Lakes, and Oceans

If you are a boat owner with your vessel in ponds, lakes, or oceans, NFPA recommends that you:

  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification.
  • Each year, after a major storm that affects the boat, have the boat’s electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended.
  • Check with the Marina owner to see if the marina’s electrical system has been recently inspected to meet the required codes in your area. This includes the National Electrical Code (NEC).
  • Know where your main breaker(s) are located on both the boat and the shore power source. This will help so you can respond quickly in case of an emergency.
  • Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including ‘Y’ adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water.
  • Test your GFCIs monthly.

As a swimmer in ponds, lakes, and oceans it is important that you aware of your surroundings in order to protect yourself against electrocution in water. You should, “never swim near a marina, dock or boatyard, or near a boat while it’s running”. Also, you should obey all “no swimming” signs. These are there for your protection.

Pools and Hot Tubs

If you own a pool it is important that you keep it in tip top shape in order to protect yourself and other swimmers from being shocked. In order to do this NFPA recommends that you:

  • Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and – where necessary – replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa, or hot tub electrically safe.
  • Know how to turn off all power in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure that any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away.
  • If you are putting in a new pool, hot tub, or spa be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations.
  • Electrical appliances, equipment and cords should be kept at least 6 feet away from the water.
  • When possible, use battery-operated instead of cord-connected appliances and equipment, such as televisions, radios, and stereos.

Have fun and be safe this summer!

-The IFS Team