As summer gets into full swing in North America, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) are working together to remind people about practicing electrical safety in or near water.
There are many electrical hazards in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, on board boards, and in the waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps. One such danger is electric shock drowning (ESD), when marina or onboard electrical systems leak electrical current into the surrounding water. The current then passes through the body, causing paralysis that results in drowning.
The NFPA offers the following tips for those in and around the water this summer.
Marinas, lakes and ponds:
- Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard, or near a boat while it’s running.
- Obey all “no swimming” signs on docks.
- Boat owners:
- Avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat, as docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification.
- Each year, and 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 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 the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly.
Swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas:
Have your swimming pool equipment, hot tubs, and spas inspected and properly maintained to make sure that life-saving measures like GFCI protection and all grounding and bonding systems are functioning properly.
- 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.
- Swimming pool and hot tub owners:
- 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. Have him/her show you 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, such as a diving board. 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.