Electrocution Injuries and Death Public Service Announcement
Re: The Electrical Wiring of Docks at Lake of the Ozarks and all lakes Nationwide
Recommendation: Put a GFCI breaker on your main panel’s dock service line(s). Cheap, fail-safe and it provides the best protection for you, your family, friends and business’ customers and employees from electrocution and death in and around your dock(s).
At Lake of the Ozarks in central Missouri, Ameren UE of St. Louis manages the Lake by permit from the federal government. In 2012, Ameren UE implemented several new electrical wiring requirements before new dock permits can be issued on the Lake. However, these new wiring requirements only apply to “used” docks where the dock is either being sold or re-wired. All “used” docks being sold or re-wired, and “new” built docks must meet the new rules in order to be permitted after inspection.
Unfortunately, tens-of-thousands of “used” docks either not being re-wired or re-sold have not been inspected and required to meet the new wiring rules. However, these new wiring requirements can be presented in a court of law and argued that they are the minimal standard any dock owner should now maintain their permitted dock too at the Lake. Included as a new rule by Ameren is that a ground-fault circuit interrupter, commonly known in the electrical industry as a GFCI, be installed at the shore-line where the electrical service transverses from the ground too above the water and out to the dock. Generally speaking, this means installation of the GFCI in an outdoor approved, weather tight panel at or near the sea wall where the walk out to the dock is attached to the shoreline. For complete details on what is required by Ameren, see
with whom we worked recently on a Missouri death by electrocution and drowning case, installation of a GFCI at the shoreline is still not a fail-safe. Why? Because if an electrical problem occurs in the service between the main panel of the house or business and the GFCI located at the sea wall, it is possible for arching to occur and electricity to jump to the ground wire and electrify a dock through the grounding system. In this scenario which occurred in our clients’ recent electrocution by drowning case, the GFCI on the sea wall may not instantly trip cutting power to the dock.
So this begs the question: Why did Ameren UE require the new GFCI’s to be installed on the sea wall at Lake of the Ozarks and not in the main panel in the house or business? Because of jurisdiction. Ameren UE only has jurisdiction to a certain level above sea-level. At that point, you are on ground and the jurisdiction of the county and/or city takes over. Lake of the Ozarks extends across four Missouri counties, from Benton County in the west through Camden and Morgan counties to Miller County in the east. In addition to these four counties who have jurisdiction and whom may or may not have electrical code wiring requirements, many cities are also located within these four counties and they too may have jurisdiction and their own set of wiring rules in addition to those of the county. We assume getting all the counties and cities on board to pass a global set of dock wiring requirements would be difficult at best. Thus why Ameren chose to act where they had jurisdiction and authority, and the requirement for GFCI dock protection ended up at the sea wall.
So what is a home owner or business to do? According to SEMKE engineers, the smartest and most prudent safety feature any home owner or business can do for dock safety is to have a licensed electrician install a GFCI breaker in the main panel of the home or business, on the line(s) servicing the dock(s). This is in addition to the Ameren requirements for GFCI installation at the sea wall. With a GFCI breaker installed in your main panel on the electrical line(s) servicing your dock(s), in the event a problem occurs between the main panel and the sea wall, the GFCI in the main panel will instantly trip and cut all power from there to the dock. GFCI breakers can be purchased for $50 to $100, and when installed by a licensed, certified electrician, you can rest peacefully knowing that you have done all you can do to protect your family, friends and business’ patrons and employees at the Lake.