Mike Holt Enterprises Electrical News Source

Electric Shock Drowning - Update 2020

Electrical safety is our key concern and I'm always looking out for information that will help keep the industry safe. Every year Electric Shock Drowning claims several new victims. As the summer approaches and people start taking to their boats and boat docks, it's important to remind you of the hidden dangers. It's our responsibility, especially as electricians, to do our part in educating the public to help keep families safe around lakes and marinas.

Captain David Rifkin (USN, Ret.) plays an active role in spreading the awareness of Electric Shock Drowning, and is the contributor of this annual report. Click here for his updated list of ESD incidents which added several deaths and a number of "near misses" to the list. Here is his message:
Now that the newest NFPA codes/standards are being recognized by marinas across the country, we have a few observations:

1. Enhanced safety. Some activities have been very proactive in the shifting to ground fault protection for their marina shore power stations. This included educating their customers and also conducting targeted testing on boats before the new equipment was installed. This gave the boat owner time to correct sources of electrical leakage before plugging into ground fault protected service. In contrast with some marinas losing business when their customer couldn’t keep the breakers closed, the investment in proactive preparation accomplished two things. First, it enhanced electrical safety in the marina and on the individual boats. Second, it averted business loss for the marina operators.

2. Bucking the code for business revenue. Some marina operators who upgraded their docks to provide ground fault protection for boat shore supply found that angry customers did threaten to leave the facility unless they could get “reliable” power once again. In response at least one operator REMOVED the ground fault protection equipment (required by the Code, and after passing permitting inspections) to satisfy the costumer and retain their business. At this point marinas should be proactive in helping find the boat’s electrical faults and/or encouraging them to install isolation transformers aboard. Simply “moving the problem” is not the answer when electrical safety is involved.

3. No real inundation of issues. We are not seeing a “flood” of issues with the new ground fault protection. The marina industry appears to be generally informed and ready to deal with these situations.

Keep in mind that most marinas are still operating under grandfathered standards and won’t see any effects of ground fault protection on the continuity of power to their customers. As new additions are constructed or rewiring projects tackled (requiring compliance with newest codes), there will be more issues coming to our attention.

The goal here has always been to improve marina and dock electrical safety. In other words, to save lives. Throughout this effort there will always be perceived inconveniences in the process of improving safety. The right answer is to recognize that electrical leakage into the water is inherently dangerous. And even if installations meet current codes and standards, swimming around boats and docks using AC electricity should be prohibited. David Rifkin

For additional information:

  • Looking for help, My next door neighbor has installed an electric boat lift. He is not an electrician nor qualified. The work was not permited or inspected. Do I turn a blind eye or notify the local AHJ. I do not like the idea of being a rat but if something were to happen and someone got hurt I would feel terrible. What would Mike do?

    chuck  May 19 2020, 7:46 pm EDT
    Reply to this comment
  • Reply from: Mike Holt   May 19 2020, 7:54 pm EDT
    Humm.. well nobody on your property can get killed from a failure on his property. Maybe you can forward this newsletter to him. Would I 'rat' on my neighbour, nope; what will happen is I'll be the middle guy and for sure I'll be the bad guy.
    Reply to Mike Holt

  • Mike, thanks for all the great info on electric shock drowning.

    Rex  May 16 2020, 2:17 pm EDT
    Reply to this comment

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