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PA Boating Handbook
Ventilation & Fueling / Carbon Monoxide

Boat exhaust illustrationGasoline fumes are heavier than air and will settle to the lowest part of the boat’s interior hull, the bilge. All motorboats, except open boats, must have at least two ventilator ducts with cowls (intake and exhaust). Exhaust blowers are part of most boat ventilation systems. Permanently installed fuel tanks must be vented.

Most boat explosions occur from improper fueling. Portable gas tanks should be filled on the dock or pier, not on board. The vent on the tank should be closed and the gas pumped carefully, maintaining contact with the nozzle and the tank’s rim. Any spills should be cleaned up, the tank secured and the vent reopened.

When filling inboard tanks, everyone should be sent ashore and the boat closed up. All electrical systems should be shut off. After filling up and before starting the engine, the blower should be run for at least four minutes. Take appropriate precautions to prevent spills. Avoid discharging oil and gas from your boat’s bilge. Toxic substances must be disposed of properly. Noncompliance may result in fines.

Boaters should routinely check for leaks in fuel lines and fittings, frayed wiring and improperly rigged electrical systems.

CO2 danger graphicCARBON MONOXIDE

Swim platformCarbon monoxide (CO) gas is a potentially deadly by-product of your boat’s engine. Each year boaters are killed or injured by carbon monoxide. Stay away from exhaust areas and do not swim near exhaust vents. Never enter an enclosed area under a swim platform where exhaust is vented. Only one or two breaths of the air in this “death chamber” can be fatal. Keep air moving through the boat to avoid problems.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning depend on exposure. Brief exposure may produce shortness of breath, mild nausea and mild headaches. Moderate levels of CO exposure may cause death if headaches, dizziness and light headedness symptoms persist for an extended period of time. High levels of CO may be fatal causing death within minutes. If you suspect someone is experiencing CO poisoning, move the individual to fresh air immediately and call 9-1-1.

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