Use a portable GFCI to stay grounded
A portable GFCI, or ground fault circuit interrupter, can prevent a fatal electrical shock when using tools or appliances on your boat or at the dock.
Although you’ll find GFCI devices in most modern electrical systems and new homes, many existing locations, such as old marinas and boat yards, don’t have them. If you encounter a GFCI device that has been exposed to the elements, test it before use.
Use a portable GFCI device when working in wet environments or anytime you’re using electric power tools. Portable GFCI devices come in handy where GFCI receptacles aren’t installed or practical. A portable GFCI device looks like either a receptacle with plug blades or a short extension cord with an integral GFCI receptacle on the end. You can purchase these relatively inexpensive devices at local hardware stores or online.
While working on our boats, we might have power tools plugged into a confused mess of extension cords, adaptors and plug expanders. If one of the tools has a problem or fault in its ground circuitry, a severe and possibly deadly electrical shock could occur when an unintentional path to ground is made with the user’s body and a faulty tool or appliance.
If you’re using a portable GFCI, the device will respond to electrical current leakage as low as 5 milliamps, tripping the device. While this current flow through the body isn’t comfortable, it’s not lethal and will let you know there’s a problem with your tool or appliance.
A portable GFCI is a good, inexpensive investment in your safety. –William P. Morrell
Prepare for any crisis
Learn how to handle any emergency while underway by taking our Emergencies Onboard seminar.