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With the arrival of the July 4th holiday weekend, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reminds everyone about potential electrical hazards that exist aboard boats, on docks, and piers, and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, floating buildings, and launch ramps, and the need to put safety measures in place to reduce risk.  

While most people are unaware of electrical dangers posed by damp, wet, and water environments such as electric shock drowning (ESD), each year people are injured or killed from these hazards. Electric shock drowning can occur when an improperly installed or maintained electrical system results in electrical current in the water, which can then pass through a person’s body, causing a level of paralysis that can ultimately result in serious injury or drowning.  

Electrical equipment in saltwater and freshwater marinas is often subjected to harsh environmental conditions that can result in deterioration and other long-term maintenance concerns. Compounding the problem is that marinas often lack ground-fault circuit interrupters, devices that automatically shut off electrical power when they detect an improper operating condition known as leakage current. There are also no consistent rules about recurring safety inspections.  

“Electric shock drowning is a serious concern to the safety community,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach & Advocacy at NFPA. “With more understanding and knowledge of this disturbing trend, NFPA is raising awareness about the need for certain safeguards in and around marina and dock installations, and to develop collective strategic solutions that can positively impact the electric shock drowning problem.”  

The 2020 edition of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® addresses these and other marina safety concerns by including requirements related to GFCI and equipment ground fault protection, permanent signage, and pier power distribution systems, and other related changes.  

Following are additional resources for marina and boatyard operators:

Other NFPA codes and standards that apply to boats and marinas, along with related electrical safety issues, can be found on the NEC webpage.  

NFPA: 125 Years of Protecting People and Property The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. The association began its work to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation in 1896 and has since become a global force known for advancing safety worldwide. NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 325 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. In celebration of its 125th Anniversary, NFPA will be hosting a Conference Series and other initiatives that reflect the association’s steadfast commitment to advancing fire and life safety for the next 125 years and beyond. For more information or to view NFPA codes and standards for free, visit www.nfpa.org.