Headed to the lake house or condo to prepare it for a summer of fun? Don’t forget to check the electrical safety of boat docks. That’s the advice of the Electrical Connection, a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 and the St. Louis Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).
“Boat docks are exposed daily to wakes, high winds, bad weather and fluctuating lake levels,” noted Jim Curran, executive vice president, Electrical Connection. “That can impact electrical systems powering docks creating potential electrical shock hazards on the dock and in the water. So it’s important to add a boat dock electrical safety check to the list of things to get the lake home ready for a summer of fun.” Curran adds that neighboring docks should be checked as well.
This year, Missouri State Senator Jake Hummel introduced revised legislation (SB 622) to improve boat dock safety in the state. In other parts of the country, communities are upgrading safety equipment to protect marinas including the Geneva State Park Marina near Cleveland (see:http://www.starbeacon.com/news/local_news/marina-installs-new-safety-equipment/article_eb7c0975-f4f3-53b0-b535-8650e9c75b9c.html).
In the meantime, the Electrical Connection, which is the single largest source of licensed electrical contractors and skilled electricians in the state of Missouri, recommends boat dock owners consider the following:
- A Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) should be on all dock receptacles. A GFCI measures the current in a circuit. An imbalance of that current, such as a discharge into the water, will trip the GFCI cutting off power.
- The GFCI should be tested at least once a month or per the manufacturer’s specifications. The GFCI should be located somewhere along the ramp to the dock so it can be easily found and tested by local fire departments as needed.
- All metal parts on the dock like ladders, boat lifts, sinks and the frame of dock should have “bonding jumpers” on them to connect all metal parts to a ground rod on the shore. That will ensure any part of the metal dock that becomes energized because of electrical malfunction will trip the GFCI or the circuit breaker.
- Make sure the switch to disconnect power is at the dock entrance and easily found for first responders. You don’t want to attempt any kind of rescue from a charged dock.
- Never use an extension cord on a dock.
- Neighboring docks can also present a shock hazard. Ensure your neighbor’s dockside electrical system complies with the National Electrical Code and has been inspected.
- All electrical installations should be performed by a licensed electrical contractor.
- Because docks are exposed to the elements, their electrical systems should be inspected at least once a year.
The Electrical Connection, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, provides safe and reliable electrical construction, maintenance, repair and replacement services across Missouri, the nation and the world. It has the largest data base of skilled, safe and licensed electrical contractors serving Missouri. For more information, visit www.electricalconnection.org.