The danger of propeller strikes

Spinning propellers are extremely dangerous and propeller strikes can cause serious damage and even death. Read on to find out more about propeller strikes and how they can be prevented.

Did you know?

  • A typical three-blade propeller running at 3 200 rpm can inflict 160 impacts in one second?
  • A typical recreational propeller can travel from head to toe on an average person in less than one-tenth of a second?
  • Most propeller accidents CAN be prevented!

What you can do to prevent propeller strikes

  • Wear your engine cut-off switch lanyard and your life jacket at all times. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, the engine will shut off.
  • Assign a passenger to keep watch around the propeller area of your boat when people are in the water.
  • Consider purchasing propeller safety devices for your boat.

Propeller strike safety tips

  1. Before starting your engine, walk to the stern and look in the water to make certain there is no one near your propeller. Those that are near the propeller may not be visible from the helm.
  2. Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat from the water when engine is running. Even while idling and in neutral, your propeller may continue to spin.
  3. Educate passengers about the location and danger of the propeller. Call attention to and discuss any propeller waning labels around your boat.
  4. Be especially alert when operating in congested areas and never enter swimming zones.
  5. Take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or tubers.
  6. Never allow passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs or other locations where they might fall overboard.
  7. Children should be watched carefully while onboard.
  8. Establish clear rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders, and seating (if possible, passengers should remain seated at all times).


If someone falls overboard

  1. STOP!
  2. Slowly turn the boat around, and keep the person in sight as you approach.
  3. Assign a passenger to continuously monitor the person in the water.
  4. Turn your engine off FIRST and then bring the person to safety.

NEVER reverse your boat to pick someone up out of the water. If necessary, go around again.


Safety devices

There is no “one-size fits all” solution to eliminate the risk of propeller injuries. Boaters must carefully review all options and determine which devices make the most sense for their particular boating experience. The most effective preventive measure is to remain alert. Boaters who are aware are those who responsibly manage propeller injury risks. A variety of safety devices are available to help prevent propeller strikes:

  • Wireless cut off switches
  • Propeller guards
  • Ringed propellers
  • Propulsion alternatives (jet drive)
  • Interlocks
  • Sensors
  • Anti-feedback steering

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