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Electric Safety While Boating

Water and electricity don't mix. If you own a boat, follow these 6 safety tips.


Boat at a dock plugged into an electrical cord
Image: Safe Electricity

Unknowingly, many swimmers and boat operators place themselves in the face of danger by swimming near electric-powered boats and docks. This innocent act of fun can turn tragic as electric shock drowning occurs each year. Help prevent electric shock drowning or other electrical injuries with these tips from ESFI.


  1. Don’t allow anyone to swim near docks or boats.

  2. If you feel a tingle while swimming, the water may be electrified. Get out of the water as soon as possible avoiding the use of metal objects such as ladders.

  3. When your boat is docked, never use cords that are frayed or damaged or that have had the prongs removed or altered.

  4. Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on your boat. Test them once a month.

  5. Consider having equipment leakage circuit interrupters (ELCI) installed on your boat to protect nearby swimmers from potential electricity leakage into water surrounding your boat.

  6. Have your boat’s electrical system inspected and upgraded by a certified marine electrician regularly.


What is electrified water?

When electricity touches water the electricity moves throughout the water. This results from flowing electrical currents from faulty wiring in or near boats or docks. The water molecules do not conduct electricity; however, the ions within the water carry the moving electrons throughout the water. These moving electrons create electrified water through a process called water electrification.


What is electric shock drowning?

Docks and boats can carry sources of electricity. Faulty wiring or the use of damaged electrical cords and other devices not approved as “shore or marine rated” can cause the surrounding water source to become energized from electricity leakage. When the human body makes contact with energized water it becomes the conductor of electricity and can cause complete loss of muscle control, ventricular fibrillation and electric shock death.

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