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Dock Safety— Why and How

Dock safety means more than being cautious. It means being proactive, prepared, and aware. Here are tips that will make for a safe Labor Day weekend as more crowded gatherings are expected and a safe dock in general.

Labor Day is almost here, which means it’s time for more fun in the sun and enjoying the water with friends and family. Many holiday gatherings occur on boat docks during this time of the year. While docks are great fun for those who want to swim, tan, fish, and boat, it’s important to remember a few safety tips when near or on boat docks and preventative measures to keep it secure.

The experts at ShoreMaster, a manufacturing company that builds custom docks and more, have recommendations for boaters this year. First, don’t swim around docks that have boats plugged into shore power. If there is outdated wiring or a lack of proper safety equipment, electricity could leak into the water and cause injuries. Electric shock drowning happens when a marina or onboard electrical systems leak electric current into the water. The current then passes through the body, causing paralysis resulting in drowning. An annual or bi-annual inspection of the wiring and hoses is a recommendation they make to catch a problem early.

“Always use Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFI) protection,” said ShoreMaster’s Marketing Manager Kelli Heikes. “If there is none in the circuit, install a GFI pigtail. We also recommend Dock Lifeguard: A single sensor, properly placed, is said to protect an area about 40 feet on a side. Up to four sensors may be used to increase the area of coverage. The panel includes both LED indicating the relative strength of the field, a loud alarm, and a flashing light.”

No matter what material your dock is made from, it can benefit from a good pressure washing to remove dirt. If you have wood docks, you’ll probably need to sand the decking panels after this is done to avoid splinters. And if you’re due for re-sealing your dock, it’s an ideal time to get that done. Steel parts should be sanded, primed, and painted where applicable. Inspect your dock as often as possible to ensure nothing is amiss, and take care of any minor problems you see before they become much more significant.

Next, regularly inspect your boat lift cables for signs of broken strands, kinks, rust, and corrosion. The consequences of broken cables lead to your boat dropping off the lift. If this happens while you are away from your boat lift, your boat could float away and be difficult to retrieve. It is recommended all boat lift owners take a peek at their equipment once a year.

Ensuring all people on the dock use a personal flotation device (PFD) might seem like a given. But with the holiday celebrations gathering more people than usual, having extra life vests for use during Labor Day is wise if you are hosting an event on your dock. PFDs aren’t the only safety tools you should have on board. Potential emergencies are a call for preparedness, including having a fire extinguisher on hand and confirming that someone in the group is certified in first aid. A fire extinguisher and a PFD are always necessary for any boating experience. A first aid kit and a radio are also recommended.

Review and update your insurance policy’s dock and boat coverage. It is essential to be proactive about your boat’s insurance policy rather than reactive. Most policies will cover your boat while on the lift, but only to a certain extent.

Your boat dock isn’t just a means to reach your boat; it’s also a place to relax, entertain, and get some sun, fresh air, and time on the water. Taking care of it – and being cautious – is important to avoid accidents. Your boat lift is a significant investment that protects your boat’s value and performance. It should not be neglected and, like any other part of your home or big investment, it should be maintained with love and care to keep performing well for years to come.

Always remember, a careful look at your dock and equipment will pay off when taking your lift out of storage.

“Ensure your pulleys and cables are in good condition, the bearings are where they should be, and everything is free from wear and tear,” said Heikes. “If the movable parts need grease or oil, apply it now. If you need replacement parts, order them now. Everyone else will be ordering their parts in spring, and you want to be ahead of schedule.”

“While it isn’t fun to think about safety hazards, it is essential for those who own boat docks to prepare for a safe Labor Day weekend on the water. Consider adding railings, lighting, or other dock safety accessories to help with dock safety.”

Lastly, always obey all safety regulations when on a watercraft or in open water.

ShoreMaster has one of the industry’s largest and most experienced dealer networks – spanning across the United States and Canada with dealers in California. For more information on their products, installation tips, or answers to your waterfront questions, contact a ShoreMaster dealer in your area. You can find a dealer here or

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