Deck & Dock Safety Tips for New Lake Home Owners
Good deck and dock safety will ensure you and your family keep the good times rolling out on the water.
Summer weather has officially arrived in Michigan, and we bet you’re out enjoying the sunny boating weather just like we are. Whether you’re out cruising, or watching the kids cannonball into the water, it’s always important to remember good safety practices on your deck or dock.
Electricity and Water Do NOT Mix
This may seem obvious, but remember that there are a lot of areas where electricity might be used on your dock or deck, and it’s imperative you check these regularly. Wiring for a boat lift, lighting and even outlets may be close by.
Electric Shock Drowning may be an unfamiliar term, but is an unfortunately common issue. It’s caused by electrical current in the water, often emitted by a dock’s electrical system. The electrical current is silent and invisible, and can cause paralysis while swimming, ultimately resulting in drowning. It’s worth calling a licensed electrician to inspect your systems on a regular basis.
Good Lighting Matters
No matter what time of day you typically use your deck or dock, you’ll want to make sure you have appropriate lighting for all walking areas.
Save yourself the chance of an injury or unexpected swim by installing lights to railing post caps, underwater lights, or riser lights. Motion-activated solar lights are a great, affordable option.
Tie It Up Tight
Regular checks of all ropes and tie-off’s are important. These help you ensure there is no excessive wear or corrosion. Any ropes that are frayed, rotten, or broken should be replaced immediately. This applies to ropes used for tubing or skiing as well.
Secure lines from your dock to your boat, even if your boat is on a hoist. Boat lifts can fail, and without proper backup lines, your boat could end up floating away. This is a safety issue for other boaters, as well as a nightmare for you if it ends up causing damage to someone else’s property.
It’s also important to keep ropes and lines wrapped up and away from walking areas when not in use to prevent trips and falls. This goes for any umbrellas, furniture, rafts, floats, and water toys you may have out as well – storms can whip up unexpectedly, and these items can blow around easily.
Keep Ladders and Stairs in Good Shape
Stairs and ladders are a simple solution to dock safety—so always make sure they’re easy to use and in good shape. Get any creaky steps checked out immediately and don’t ignore wobbly ladders. Be sure screws are not pulling away from their supports.
If people are using your dock for swimming, having a ladder to climb is much safer than walking up the rocks or pulling yourself up on the wood.
Life Jackets Save Lives
Even with all the necessary precautions in place, accidents still happen—and you need to be prepared. Always wear a life jacket when on a boat. Help kids and young teens put theirs on if they’re not old enough to do it themselves. If someone slips on the deck and falls into the water, ensure there are life rings nearby, and it’s good practice to have life rings on the boat and on the dock. Children should always wear life vests anywhere near the water.
Know the Rules
Even on private property, be aware that if you’re planning on installing a dock or a deck as a DIY project, you may still need permits or have to meet certain requirements. Dock regulations can differ, depending on the size & type of lake, and what area of the state you are in. Generally, though, they require that you avoid damaging the lake or its inhabitants, and do not block public access to the water.
There may be other regulations as well, such as restrictions on types of materials used to build the dock, or whether it can be a permanent structure or needs to be removed over winter.
Owning a dock is a significant responsibility, especially since it can impact others in the surrounding area. Before you buy a lake home or decide to build your own dock, make sure to do your research on the local regulations. If you’re found to be in noncompliance, you could face fines or orders to remove the deck or dock.
Dock safety requires taking the extra time to consider who’s using the space and how, and what risks they may face.