Electric Shock Drowning: What It Is and How To Prevent It

This summer is a time for fun in the sun, which not only means endless beach trips, but maybe some tubing down the river, swimming at the local lake, or taking dips in your swimming pool. As electricians, it’s important to let our community know about electrical safety preventative measures since our summer enjoyment can lead us to forgetting about the potential risks involved. One example: before hopping into your new backyard above ground or inground pool, it needs to be properly bonded to all of its electrical equipment to reduce the risk of shock. But what about the lake? The river? Many of us wouldn’t know that there could be something lurking beneath these freshwaters that needs our utmost attention when it comes to the safety for ourselves and our family for the prevention of electric shock drowning.

What is Electric Shock Drowning (ESD)?

Electric shock drowning is defined as drowning from the result of skeletal muscle paralysis due to the presence of alternating current (AC) electricity in freshwater. A person becomes paralyzed from electrical shock, and is unable to swim, causing the person to drown. ESD occurs mainly near boat marinas, docks, and boatyards. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT NO ONE SWIMS NEAR BOATING DOCKS AND MARINAS USING AC ELECTRICITY!


What Causes ESD?

When a person becomes paralyzed due to electrical current in the water, it’s mainly due to the leaking of electricity that comes from the docks or boats. This leaking AC electricity can occur for many reasons: faulty electrical equipment, faulty electrical wiring, improper grounding, etc. 

Electric shock drowning should not be confused with death by electrocution. Death by electrocution occurs when a person comes into direct contact with an energized object or surface. 


How To Prevent Electric Shock Drowning 

  • First and foremost, like mentioned earlier, it’s very important not to swim near or around boating docks or marinas, since this is where leaking electrical currents can take place, causing shock. Stay at least 150ft away of equipment powered by AC electricity.
  • Boat owners should have their boats inspected by an American Boat and Yacht Certified Technician.
  • Speak with the marina owner about electrical shock drowning, and ask if they have GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters) installed where required by code. 
  • Marina owners should have their marinas inspected by a licensed electrician.
  • Marina owners should also have NO SWIMMING signs posted around the marina.