Uncommon causes of boating injuries

While spending time near water or on a boat can be an enjoyable way to spend a summer day, some dangerous conditions can exist if you are not properly equipped and prepared to deal with them. Two uncommon and avoidable causes of serious injury include being struck by a propeller and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning

CO is a poisonous gas that is a by-product of the gasoline/diesel engine combustion process. Carbon monoxide exposure is possible on any boat that is equipped with an engine or a generator, including outboard engines. Certain heating systems can produce CO gas as well. The gas is invisible and odourless and can be deadly without warning. For this reason, CO detectors are typically required by authorities to be installed on boats with enclosed accommodation compartments.

Other things to consider include:

  • Purchase marine-grade CO detectors.
  • CO detectors should be placed in any enclosed areas where people congregate or sleep.
  • Recognise the symptoms of CO poisoning, including dizziness, drowsiness, headaches, blurred vision and nausea.
  • If anchored with or rafted together with other boats, be cautious about their engine and generator exhaust reaching your vessel.
  • CO poisoning can occur outside of enclosed spaces, such as swim platforms, cockpits or fly bridges. Exposure can occur in a number of ways, including back drafting of exhaust when the boat is under way or if it is idling with the engine or generator running, or even when it is moving at slow speeds.
  • It is advisable to keep engines turned off when at anchor or at the dock. If using a generator, ensure that the exhaust is properly vented and that all passengers stay away from the exhaust ports – especially those who are swimming near the boat.
  • Be sure to inspect the exhaust system on your boat to ensure it is leak free, in good condition and properly connected.
  • Make sure your exhaust ports are free and clear. Blocked ports can cause CO to back up and accumulate in the cabin or other areas of the boat.

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Propeller strikes

Boating and swimming go hand-in-hand. But before anyone gets in the water to enjoy some liquid leisure, be sure the motor on your boat is turned off and the propeller has come to a complete stop. These tips can help your passengers stay safe while swimming near your boat.

  • The engine should remain off when getting in and out of the boat or swimming near the boat. All passengers should be made aware of where the propeller is located.
  • Before starting the engine make sure no one is in the water near your boat.
  • If you have to approach someone in the water, do so head on. Do not approach in reverse. When you reach the person, turn off the engine before bringing them on board.
  • Consider installing propeller guards.
  • Stay alert for people in the water, especially when in an area with water-skiing, scuba diving (watch for diving flag), beaches or when near other boats at anchor, mooring or at dock.
  • Be sure to wear your kill switch lanyard whenever you are operating the boat.

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