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Chapter 5

Propeller Intervention and Awareness

Boat propellers can inflict severe, devastating injuries that result in death, loss of extremities, severe permanent deformity, disfigurement, and/or disability. Common propeller strike scenarios are man-overboard and/or the "circle of death" from runaway vessels because the operator lost control or fell off.

The U.S. Coast Guard Office of Recreational Boating Safety statistics show that every year 4 percent of all boating fatalities and a growing number of injuries are caused by getting hit with a propeller. In 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard reported, prior to state reporting, that 150 people were struck by a propeller. Of these, 25 were fatalities, which is a 17 percent probability of fatality. At least 41 of these strikes were to children, ages 2-18.

Here are some tips for avoiding propeller strikes:

  • Turn off the engine when passengers are getting on or off the boat.
  • Prevent passengers from accidentally being thrown overboard by making sure the engine is not in gear when you start the boat. Do not allow passengers to sit on a seat back, gunwale, transom, or the bow when the boat is in gear.
  • Avoid swimmers, skiers, and divers in the water
  • Turn off the engine before a skier gets in the water. Make sure she pushes away from the boat before you start the engine. Also turn off the engine before she gets back in the boat. The propeller can still be spinning when an engine is in neutral; therefore do not assume the propeller is not rotating simply because the engine is in neutral. Always shut off the engine if people are in the water near the boat. After skiing or related activities, pull in the tow line as soon as the skier is finished.
  • Make sure the lanyard for the kill switch, if available, is attached somewhere onto the driver of the boat.

Make sure no one on or around your boat is in danger of being struck by your propeller. Remember that even propellers in neutral or at rest can cause serious injuries. When picking up swimmers, turn off the engine entirely.

Chapter 5

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