Early Danger Signs

Reacting immediately to early signs of electrical danger may safe your life and your boat

Use all your senses to weigh-up continually if electrical safety is compromised.  Act on what you find to keep you, your crew and persons around your boat safe.      
Never ignore danger signs, like:

  • burn marks at sockets, plugs, fuses or circuit-breakers,
  • heat damaged cables,
  • burning smells, sounds of arcing (buzzing or crackling),
  • appliances that run at a temperature higher than seems right,
  • fuses or circuit-breakers blowing or 'tripping' repeatedly
  • an RCD (residual current device) that trips and won't reset
  • a reversed polarity warning light on your consumer unit.

Any electrical equipment showing warning signs like those above shouldn't be used.  Instead, isolate the power and seek competent help to remedy any defect.

Know your boat's electrical system

Knowing your boat's electrical system will help you control the risks    
Know how to isolate and shut down the 230 V electrical supply in an emergency.
The 230 V fuse/circuit-breaker box, more properly called the consumer unit or distribution board, often contains 3-4 things

  • main switch
  • fuses or circuit-breakers
  • RCDs
  • reverse polarity indicator (if fitted)

Consumer units should be easy to find; is yours?

You should use the main switch in the consumer unit to shut down the 230 V supply, but for boats, that may not be the full story.

The system may still not be safe, so intimate knowledge of your system is vital. Depending upon how your boat is powered and wired, you may also need to shut down any running generator and disconnect the inverter.

Always ensure the main switch is off before connecting, or disconnecting, the shore-power cable.

Always disconnect the shore cable at the shore end first for complete safety.
Know the purpose of fuses or circuit-breakers.

Fuses and circuit-breakers are automatic protective devices that switch off a circuit if they detect an overload or short-circuit, such as due to an appliance or wiring fault.  Overloads see heat building up very quickly and that can lead to fire. Any faults can also lead to risk of electric shock.  So these protective devices are vital for safety.

Know the function of RCDs and how to test and reset them.

An RCD, or residual current device, is a life-saving device that provides additional protection against electric shock and, to some extent, also reduces the risk of electrical fires.

It disconnects the electricity supply when:

  • there is an earth fault, or;
  • if someone accidently touches exposed live wires, or;
  • the metallic parts of an appliance or boat made live due to a fault.