| Harrisburg, PA – As the busy July 4 holiday approaches, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is reminding boaters to follow safety precautions when they are on the water, particularly when engaging boat propellers.
“Boating is among the most popular of summer recreational activities and a lot of people like to anchor their boats and go swimming,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC boating and watercraft safety manager. “However, a day of fun and sun out on the water could end in serious injury or even death if boaters don't follow appropriate safety precautions. Every year we see accidents in which individuals swimming behind boats are struck by propellers.”
Last year in Pennsylvania, 72 boating accidents were reported to the PFBC, of which 15 involved individuals being struck by propellers. Since 2000, three people have died as a result of being struck by a propeller. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, more than 6,000 boating accidents occur every year.
Walt says propeller strikes are among the most preventable of all boating accidents and advises boaters to practice the following safety tips:
Before starting your boat:
- Put on your life jacket.
- Walk to the stern and look in the water to make certain there is no one near your propeller (people near the boat’s propeller may not be visible from the helm).
- Attach the lanyard to the engine cut-off switch to your life jacket. If the lanyard is removed from the switch, the engine will shut off.
- Explain the dangers of a motorboat running into a swimmer.
- Show the location of the propellers.
- Establish clear rules for swim platform use, boarding ladders and seating (if possible, passengers should remain seated at all times).
- Talk about safety procedures and emergency action plans.
- Discuss preventing falls overboard: Maintain three points of contact; keep your weight low and close to the centerline.
- Watch crew members and frequently check that everyone is aboard.
- Wear deck-gripping shoes (bare feet have poor traction).
- Avoid rough water and adverse weather conditions whenever possible.
- Limit alcohol use.
- Discuss swamping and capsizing prevention: Don’t overload your boat. If capsizing occurs, stay with the boat and make sure everyone has a life jacket.
Keep a lookout:
- Assign a passenger to keep watch around the propeller area of your boat when people are in the water.
- Never allow passengers to board or exit your boat when the engine is on or idling (your propeller may continue to spin). Turn the engine off.
- Be especially alert when operating in congested areas and never enter swimming zones.
- Take extra precautions near boats that are towing skiers or tubers.
- Never permit passengers to ride on the bow, gunwale, transom, seat backs or other locations where they might fall overboard.
- Children should be watched carefully while onboard.
- Carefully approach your downed skiers or tubers. Turn the engine off before allowing them to board the boat.
Also, Walt suggests boaters consider purchasing propeller safety guards, cage-type devices which surround the propeller and shield people from the blades.
The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at fishandboat.com.