NFPA emphasizes water safety for summer activities

June 28, 2024

NFPA highlights potential electrical hazards in water environments

As reported by the NFPA, with summer and the 4th of July holiday approaching, there is a need to be aware of electrical hazards in swimming pools, hot tubs, boats, docks, and marinas.

Many people are unaware of the risks, such as electric shock drowning (ESD), which can occur when electrical currents enter the water due to improperly installed or maintained electrical systems. ESD can lead to paralysis and potentially drowning.

Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president of Outreach & Advocacy, emphasized the need for awareness: “Because ESD is not well known, NFPA continues to raise awareness about the presence of electrical hazards in water to help prevent deaths and injuries from happening in pools and waterways.

“Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard, and have a qualified electrician inspect your boat, swimming pool equipment, hot tub, and spa before engaging in any water activities to ensure all life-saving measures and protection systems are functioning properly.”

Safety tips for swimmers

The NFPA offers several safety tips for swimmers to avoid electrical hazards:

  • Avoid swimming near marinas, docks, or boatyards.
  • Watch for malfunctioning underwater lights in pools or hot tubs.
  • If you feel a tingling sensation while swimming, stop and move away from the direction you are heading.
  • Exit the water quickly, avoiding metal ladders or rails to minimize the risk of shock.

Precautions for boat owners

Boat owners are advised to take specific precautions to prevent electrical hazards:

  • Avoid entering the water when launching or loading boats.
  • Have the boat’s electrical system inspected annually by a qualified marine electrician.
  • Check with marina owners about their electrical system inspections.
  • Install ground fault circuit protection on circuits supplying the boat.
  • Never modify the boat’s electrical system to bypass safety mechanisms.

Guidelines for pool owners

Pool owners should follow these guidelines to ensure electrical safety:

  • Use an experienced electrician for wiring new pools or hot tubs and ensure inspections by the authority having jurisdiction.
  • Periodically have a qualified electrician inspect and, if necessary, upgrade electrical devices for safety.
  • Ensure proper clearance of overhead electrical lines above the pool and other structures.

Additional resources and safety measures

The NFPA provides various resources for swimmers, boat, and pool owners, including videos, tip sheets, checklists, and a new podcast episode, “Hazards in the Water.” These resources are available on the NFPA website at nfpa.org/watersafety.

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