Stray Electric Current Hazards

Lethal stray electric current is a common risk that marina operators, boat builders, and yacht clubs need to take steps to prevent. Even with precautions, there is always some level of risk. Boaters need to be aware of potentially dangerous areas and be especially cautious about keeping children from water that they may find irresistible.

This insidious threat can very quickly pose a risk at marinas. Aside from fatalities or bodily injury from electric shock, some electrical incidents can also wreak costly damage to boats and yachts. So what does a vigilant marina, club, or other waterfront business watch for to mitigate risk and liability?

First, it’s important to understand two dangerous current types in the water. These are:

  • Stray Direct Current (DC) – which quickly damages boats, particularly if there is an aluminum hull or any metal hull fittings
  • Stray Alternating Current (AC) – which emits potentially fatal electrical impulses into the water

Suppose a person encounters stray AC while in the water. Even low levels can paralyze muscles and result in injury or even death by drowning. Higher levels could, of course, electrocute anyone unfortunate enough to be immersed in the electrified water. Too often, the victims of electric shock drowning are children or teens swimming nearby.

Marine business owners will want to watch for the two most common sources of electric current entering the water: Electrical wiring from the shore power system or the connection between a boat and the onshore power supply.

Here are some ways to minimize the risk of stray electric currents:

  • Ensure that all electrical equipment is installed properly and meets required federal and local safety standards
  • Install ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) for safety
  • Regularly review the power system for any defects or issues
  • Make repairs and maintenance a priority
  • Require all boats or yachts at the marina to meet the fire protection standard
  • Ban swimming at or near the marine facilities or operations
  • Forbid diving operations without approval, and be sure to use the appropriate safety precautions for the duration of the dive

Stray Electric Current Safety Checklist for Marinas and Yacht Clubs is available upon request. You can refer to this tip sheet for more information about stray electric currents and preventative measures to put in place.

Want to minimize your exposure to risk onshore or on land? Contact the marine business insurance professionals at Global Marine Insurance to discuss your needs. We offer marine industry expertise, broad coverage offerings, and tailored solutions.

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