Sailing into Danger

21 June 2007

Sailing enthusiasts are being urged to think about the hazards posed by overhead power lines on shores and around lakes in the UK.

Overhead power lines are essential to the UK’s power grid and supply electricity to all towns, cities, villages and hamlets. To supply boating huts and other recreational activity centres traditionally found around coasts, lakes and rivers, overhead power lines are often overhead.

Power lines are easily confused with telephone lines and can carry voltages from 230 up to 400,000. Even touching a 230 volt line can be fatal and even the lowest voltage lines can produce 10,000 times the amount of current needed to kill a person.

These lines are easy to forget when manoeuvring a vessel – either at a launch site, or even at home on the drive or towing on the roads.

Common misconceptions are that wearing rubber boots will protect people from shocks – this is wrong. Also people often do not remember that electricity can jump gaps – masts do not necessarily need to come into contact with the line.

The Energy Networks Association has compiled a range of leaflets to warn people that enjoy outdoor pursuits such as sailing, fishing, and camping about the dangers they face but might not be aware of, due to the number of accidents that occur throughout the country in relation to the national grid.

Energy Networks Association head of safety, health and environment Peter Coyle said 'If your boat is in contact with an electricity wire or within 5 metres of a damaged overhead wire then move away as quickly as you can, and stay away, until the emergency services or Electricity Company arrive. If someone is on the boat, they MUST stay on the boat. Climbing down on to the ground could be fatal. Detailed advice is available at the Energy Networks Association website, at and, for landowners and outdoor pursuits organisers, from local electricity companies.'