Danger: Electric Shock Drowning

AC Voltage + Freshwater = Danger.   Electric Shock Drowing

People die every year because of Electric Shock Drowning, 14 people died in the USA in 2012 as a result of it.

For more details go to http://www.boatus.com/seaworthy/magazine/2013/july/electric-shock-drowning-explained.asp . The above picture was copied from there.

I checked my Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) by the shore over the weekend. IT FAILED. I was horrified; My grandchildren swim on this freshwater shore. This is not good. I immediately turned off the circuit and went to Home Depot to get a new one. I got the weather resistant version. I installed it myself but using a certified electrician is best if you are not sure of the fine points. If you install it yourself this is one place you need to read the instructions and do the tests they suggest.

There was probably no danger directly to the swimmer around my dock but there might have been. In order for the electricity to get into the water, three things have to occur:

  1. The Safety ground must be broken or non-existent
  2. There must be a leak in the “hot” side of the AC wire into the water, i.e. break in the insulation allowing current to escape into the water
  3. The GFCI doesn’t not work or is non-existent

Since the first two items could happen at any time based on Murphy’s Law, you must rely on the third item to protect living things around your electric outlet. It’s easy to check by pressing the test button on the GFCI outlet, however, the test button does not always work on all GFCI outlets. If your unit is more than 10 years old you might want to install a new one since the new ones are based on updated specs.

Use a Separate GFCI Tester

I used a separate GFCI circuit tester (see picture below). They are inexpensive and available at most any Hardware or building supply stores. Be sure to get the one with the GFCI tester button.

GFCIGFCI tester: They are easy to use but be sure to read the instructions.

Salt water vs. Fresh water

You would think that salt water would be worse than freshwater for electrocution, it is not. Salt water is a better conductor than you are so any stray current would have more than plenty of paths back to ground.  In a freshwater lake you are a better conductor than the surrounding water so you can become the path of least resistance.

If you have any AC voltage at or near your freshwater shore, on your boat or boat hoist or lighting or even not used; Do a test frequently.

Leave a Reply