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Staying Safe on Boats


Although installing security systems on your boat and ensuring you have the correct insurance are vitally important parts to boat ownership, you must also make sure you are aware of the potential fire and carbon monoxide risks. According to the Boat Safety Scheme these risks “arise from the way that engines, appliances, systems and fuels are used and maintained”.

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (2013) there are approximately 20 fire-related accidents and injuries occurring on boats every year, “each year boaters die or are made seriously ill from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning - boats are built to keep water out, but this also makes them good containers for gases and fumes” (Boat Safety Scheme, 2015).

Our boat insurance experts have compiled a list comprising of important information on the most common problems and risks on boats and advice on how to prevent them,  helping you and your crew to stay safe when you go boating.


Fire Safety

Boating is a fun and relaxing experience, but sometimes things can turn for the worse and even the most experienced boater should be prepared in case of emergency.

It is unlikely that a fire will start on boats that are well maintained and comply to minimum safety standards, however it is a serious risk and can catch boaters unprepared if it does happen, making their escape potentially difficult or lethal.

Fire alarms can save lives

  • You should fit alarms in places on your boat where you can hear them clearly. Consider installing more than one alarm and linking them together so that they go off at the same time. This will make you even more aware of what is happening and give you plenty of time to take the appropriate measures.
  • You should always test the alarm once you have boarded your boat to make sure that it is in good working condition. Make sure you never disconnect the alarm or remove the batteries.
  • You should have a fire break out plan and know what you need to do in case of a fire emergency. This applies to everyone on the boat, not just the owner.

Carbon Monoxide Risks

Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when carbon-based appliances and engine fuels are not burned completely, putting the cabin crew and boaters at great risk.

CO build-up can happen as a result of:

  • Faulty appliances
  • Escaped flue gases
  • Short supply of air
  • Exhaust fumes

You should follow these simple guidelines to remove the carbon monoxide risks and make sure yourself and you crew are safe on the boat.

  • Carbon Monoxide and gas detectors can save lives
  • When you purchase a boat you should a CO detector is installed, that it is suitable for marine use and meets the BS7860 or EN50291 standards.
  • Check for leaks in the gas system on a regular basis, as this will make you aware of any problems before you leave the boat docks.
  • Ensure you and your crew are aware of CO poisoning symptoms and how to react if these are noticed.
  • Make sure you always use appliances on your boat as per the instructions provided and you don’t block ventilation.
  • Learn how to spot potential hazards before CO occurs and threatens the life of everyone on the boat.

Solid Fuel Stoves

According to the Boat Safety Scheme (2015), “there have been at least two dozen boaters hurt and five killed in using solid fuel stoves in the first decade of the 21st century. There have many other incidents where no one was hurt but the boat and belonging suffered a lot of damage.

There are four main risks that need to be avoided in order to prevent incidents like the ones stated by the Boat Safety Scheme from happening:

  • 'Over-firing' of the stove leading to a boat fire;
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning due to the escape of stove flue gases into the cabin;
  • Items and materials being too close and getting too hot for too long.
  • Poor maintenance and misuse of the stove

Fire, smoke and CO alarms and detectors are the only things that can help if such incidents start when you are asleep and a well-designed emergency plan will make sure everyone aboard has the best chance of surviving unharmed.


Electrical Safety

Damaged wires and faulty appliances can lead to dangerous fires; that is why it is good to make sure you unplug all appliances when they’re not in use or when you leave the boat. You should look out for scorch marks or burning smells because damaged wires can overheat rapidly and lead to fires starting.


If you want to find out more information about how you can stay safe while boating, then read the brochure supplied by the Department for Communities and Local Government (2013). Click here to access it >>>

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