To Avoid Electrical Hazards, the NFPA Offers Water Safety Tips

Posted On: July 28th, 2021

When the weather is hot, there’s nothing better than a nice cool dip. While we may all think we are aware of every risk, there are a few hidden dangers that aren’t often discussed. One such subject is electric shock drowning. Ever heard of it? If not, this article is a vital read. We explain how to avoid electrical hazards and water safety tips.


What is Electric Shock Drowning?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, electric shock drowning can occur when electrical equipment leaks current into the water. The current can pass through the human body, causing paralysis, which leads to drowning. Electric shock is not the cause of death. It is the inability to stay afloat that leads to trouble.

Water is a great conductor of electricity and reduces the natural resistance of our skin. This means that a current doesn’t have to be as strong to have an adverse effect and cause ESD.

Frightening, right?

If you are a strong swimmer and generally have great knowledge about water safety, you may be inclined to believe that there is reduced risk.


Absolutely anyone, even the world’s best swimmer, could be affected by ESD. The paralysis caused by electrical currents is indiscriminate and represents a risk to everyone.

Fortunately, there are solutions, so the risk is reduced or removed completely.


 Where Can ESD Occur?

Electric shock drowning can happen anywhere. It isn’t limited to big pools or areas next to large electrical installations. In today’s world, we are surrounded by electrical appliances and circuits. A great many of them hold enough current to present a significant risk.

Do you have an electrical shaving outlet in your bathroom? How’s about an underwater light in a hot tub? If you have a swimming pool, are there any lighting installations nearby? Or a pump or electrically powered filter?

The sources for ESD are numerous and probably more common than you think. Remember, due to the nature of water conduction, the current doesn’t have to be particularly strong.

There are only two basic ‘boxes’ to be ticked to satisfy the requirements for ESD to occur:

  • Water Deep Enough to Drown In

This doesn’t necessarily mean ‘deep’ water. In fact, according to certain sources, water that is deeper than about 2 inches is sufficient in the wrong circumstances. If you are rendered immobile by an electrical current, the water doesn’t need to be deep at all!

  • The Presence of an Electrical Circuit

As you will have seen above, there are numerous sources of electricity that are present around water. Here are some great examples that you may not have thought about:

  • Electrical equipment onboard a boat
  • Televisions in the bathroom
  • Electrically powered boat lifts
  • Mobility aids in the bathroom
  • Hot tub lights
  • Buried electrical systems surrounding a swimming pool
  • Electrical gardening equipment such as mowers or strimmers
  • Electrically operated pool covers
  • And many more…


How to Avoid Electrical Hazards in Water

While the ‘silent killer’ of ESD is concerning, provided you consider it and assess the risk, you greatly reduce the chance of it occurring. Here are some great ways to reduce the risk:

  • Assess Problem Areas

The first thing to do is take a really good look at areas that might be problematic. Obvious areas are featured in our list above, but there are others.

As a general rule, look at any areas where electricity and water are likely to mix. Outdoor pools and hot tubs are prime candidates. Marinas are prime ESD territory, either from shore-based power sources or even those onboard a boat.

  • Keep an Eye on Your Electrics

A great indicator that something is amiss is to inspect your electrics. Ever noticed a pool light that seems to flicker or never seems to work? That could be a surefire indication that you have a problem.

As a good rule of thumb, be suspicious of any electrical equipment that doesn’t work as it should. Examples of this could be switches doing the opposite of what they are supposed to.

Often the wiring for things such as pool lights can run under lawns and gardens. Do you know where the wiring is located and how deep it is?

If not, then maybe it is time to find out.

  • Age of Electrics?

As time has gone on, builders and designers have become more responsible. There are lots of regulations that are designed to ensure risks are kept to a minimum.

There is a snag, however.

Often, older electrical equipment was installed when these regulations didn’t exist. As a result, you can’t have the same level of confidence.

  • If In Doubt, Get Out!

This tip is the most obvious and the most effective. Quite simply put. If you aren’t in the water, you can’t be affected by ESD.

A key sign is a tingling feeling while in the water. If this occurs, you must swim in the opposite direction to where the feeling first began. When exiting the water, do not use metal ladders or railings.

  • Observe Signage

Often in larger areas such as marinas, there may be warning signs advising you not to go swimming.

This tip is simple.

Observe and obey the signs! You can’t be sure why the signs are there, so best to follow the advice.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) offers excellent guidance on what to do if you suspect someone has been affected by ESD.


Talk to a Professional

If you have any doubt about electrical equipment or circuits, it is well worth seeking expert guidance. They will be able to quickly and efficiently identify problems and may even be able to offer solutions.

Electrics and water really don’t mix. Aside from the NFPA guidance regarding electric shock drowning, it can also present other risks. Short circuits cause around 51,000 fires every year. Companies, such as Fraker Fire, can offer expert guidance in reducing fire risks in various situations such as electrical fires. A professional consultation can be arranged. Why not contact them to see what they can do for you?

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