It’s a common occurrence: Dock owners put lighting on their docks, but neglect to properly wire the connections, exposing swimmers to electrical shock and possible drowning.
Camps are no exception, and with various other electrical devices used on docks (i.e. sound systems), the risk is even greater.
Rick Braschler, Director of Risk Management for Kanakuk Kamps and the Senior Risk Consultant for Camp Risk Solutions, notes that when improper or faulty grounding of either onboard or dockside wiring is combined with AC leaks to ground, enough current can be fed into the water to paralyze the muscles of a swimmer, resulting in a drowning that leaves no physical evidence of the causative shock.
“When a person is in the water, it takes very little current to cause muscle spasms or seizure: Currents on the order of 50 milliamps (0.05 amps) sustained for 2 seconds, or 500 milliamps sustained for just 0.2 seconds, can, in certain circumstances, cause ventricular fibrillation; currents as low as 5 milliamps can cause muscle seizure. But for voltage present: Reports indicate that there has never been a documented case of electrocution on shore with a voltage much below 50 volts.” – Nigel Calder, Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual
Braschler says that ground fault protection is very important for the safety of individuals using electricity around water. Ground fault protection is not only needed around items like sinks and hydro massaging tubs, but should also be used on such things as outdoor electrical receptacles and dock wiring.
If ground fault protection is installed properly, it can be a very useful tool in helping people stay safe around electricity and water.
But if not installed properly, it won’t provide the type of protection needed to prevent shock, electrocution and injury to users. To ensure that ground fault protection is installed properly, it is necessary to install according to manufacturer’s specifications and follow the National Electrical Code requirements associated with the installation.
The ground fault protection should then be inspected by a certified electrical inspector. It is the inspector’s responsibility to make sure that the wiring is installed to meet minimum code requirements. This helps minimize the chance of electrical shock.