In advance of the summer boating season, the Electrical Connection is offering tips to boat dock owners to ensure their docks are electrically safe. Recently, the mother of two children electrocuted while swimming around a boat dock at the Lake of the Ozarks said more needs to be done to avoid fatal electrical shock from unsafe boat docks. The Electrical Connection is a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 and the St. Louis Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).
“Missouri lawmakers are currently considering boat dock safety legislation in SB 297 introduced by State Senator Jake Hummel,” said Tim Green, director of governmental affairs for IBEW/NECA. “Members of the state assembly are rightly concerned about recent tragedies on Missouri lakes where people, including children, were electrocuted swimming near docks with electrical hazards.”
“We fully support Senator Hummel’s bill,” said Jim Curran, executive vice president of the Electrical Connection. “But now is the time that boat dock owners need to make sure their docks – and neighboring docks – don’t have electrical issues that would endanger anyone on the dock or swimming around the dock.”
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.
- The metal frame of docks 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.
More boat dock safety tips can be found at www.electricalconnection.org.