NFPA Offers Reminders to Prevent Electrical Shocks in Water

NFPA's tips for swimmers are to never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard or near a boat while it's running, and also obey all "no swimming" signs on docks. Tips for boat owners are to avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat, because docks or boats can leak electricity into the water, causing water electrification.

NFPA has posted a reminder this month to warn people about potential electrical hazards in swimming pools, hot tubs, spas, aboard boats, and in the water surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps. The online page for this includes a link to a 2015 NFPA Journal article discussing how several incidents prompted a new look at the requirements for ground fault protection in the 2016 edition of NFPA 303, Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards, which applies to the facilities that house and service motor craft.

NFPA's tips for swimmers are to never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard or near a boat while it's running, and also obey all "no swimming" signs on docks.

Tips for boat owners are to avoid entering the water when launching or loading your boat, because docks or boats can leak electricity into the water, causing water electrification. Also, every year and after a major storm, have your 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, and check with the marina owner, who can also tell you whether the marina's electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code. In addition, 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 and have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) installed on your boat, using only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including "Y" adapters) that are "UL-Marine Listed" when using electricity near water. Finally, test your GFCIs monthly.

The tips for people using swimming pools, hot tubs, or 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 to 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 because touching metal may increase the risk of shock.
  • Do not swim before, during, or after thunderstorms.

Tips for swimming pool 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 or 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.

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