When you think of water safety, drowning is probably the first thing that comes to mind. That’s why you might be surprised to learn that electric shock is another very real safety hazard around lakeside docks in Missouri.
One family was forever changed on Fourth of July 2012 when an eight-year-old brother and his thirteen-year-old sister were killed after coming in contact with electricity while swimming at Lake of the Ozarks. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one-time tragedy: Three years later, another man was killed and a woman was injured after encountering electricity at a different dock at the Lake.
Deaths and injuries like these are largely — if not entirely — preventable. The National Fire Protection Association offers a set of standards that help give pool and dock owners access to up-to-date electric safety measures, and new legislation intended to make swimming safer at the Lake of the Ozarks has been introduced in the Missouri legislature. In addition, Missouri’s electric cooperatives have partnered with Ameren Missouri to raise awareness about water safety near Missouri’s docks.
Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire protection standard for marinas and boatyards, NFPA 303, provides detailed safety information for the operation standards of electrical wiring and equipment at marinas and boatyards nationwide. The standard include the recommendation that all electrical docks have ground fault interrupters (GFIs) that shut down power if there’s an electrical short.
A ground fault interrupter (GFI) or ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a device that shuts off electrical power “when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person (source).”
The best way for Missouri dock owners to prevent injury or death in the water near their docks is to have properly installed GFCIs that are inspected regularly. At minimum, GFCIs should be inspected annually, but Missouri’s electric coops recommend inspecting them monthly.
Missouri’s “Dock Shock” Bill
New legislation that’s designed to help prevent electricity-related water deaths in Missouri — specifically near the Lake of the Ozarks — has been introduced this spring in the Missouri legislature. The bill, which is commonly called the Dock Shock Bill, would require dock owners to follow NFPA 303’s recommendation that electrical docks have working GFIs. Annual inspections are required in an additional “Dock Shock” statute.
You can read more about Missouri’s Dock Shock Bill here.
Missouri Electric Cooperatives Team Up with Ameren Missouri
Missouri’s electric cooperatives have teamed up with Ameren Missouri to help make sure that families stay safe at the lake this summer. Your coops and Ameren recommend that dock owners check the working condition of their GFCIs on a monthly basis and any time there’s been flooding or extreme weather changes (like in the spring after winter’s hard freezes).
You can read our own Southwest Electric’s recommendations for dock safety here.
NFPA 303, the Dock Shock Bill, and your cooperatives’ partnership with Ameren Missouri each serve to educate and prevent against electricity-related deaths on lakes and docks. As summer approaches, be sure that your dock is up to standards by reading NFPA 303 and by asking a qualified electrician to inspect your dock before you allow swimming in the water around it.
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