What Piece of Equipment on a Boat is Most Important in Preventing Propeller Strike Injuries?

Propeller Strike injuries are among the most severe types of boating accidents.

So, preventing propeller strike injuries is a crucial boating safety exercise.

But how can you guarantee safety from a propeller strike injury?Let’s find out in this short article. 

Walk with me as we discuss what piece of equipment on a boat is most important in preventing propeller strike injuries.

What Type of Accident is Referred to as Propeller Strike?

A propeller strike is an accident that happens when a rolling propeller gets into contact with a person in the water. So you can get into a propeller strike when swimming near a moving Boat or after an overboard fall. 

Where Is The Best Place To Put PFDs While You Are Out On Your Boat?

Being in such an accident puts you at risk of severe injuries. The aftermath can even be fatal.

Some of the potential injuries in a propeller strike include:

  • Lacerations to flesh
  • Death because of immediate trauma
  • Blood loss
  • Infection

Many victims have no choice but to go through amputations because of the severity of infections in some propeller strikes.

Even worse, falling overboard is a major risk to this type of accident. Such an occurrence can take you through the “circle of death.”

“Circle of death” occurs when you lose control of your boat after falling into the water. The boat spins to the right or the left due to the uncontrollable movement of the propellers in those directions.

If you’re in the water at this time, the boat will circle back and hit you. The injuries may be worse or even cause death if the propeller hits you in this situation.

Unfortunately, the propeller operates from under the water. So you may hardly see it if you’re the passenger, operator, swimmer, or skier.

As a result, there is a risk of propeller strike when it comes into contact with an invisible item like heavy, long grasses or any swimmer or divers.

The safest way to avoid being hit by a propeller if you’re diving or swimming is to keep distance from any boat around you.

What is The Best Way to Protect People from Propeller Strikes?

Falling overboard puts you at a high risk of a propeller strike.

You must act quickly in the event of a man overboard to protect the person from a propeller strike.

Follow the following procedure:

  1. Turn the boat towards the person who has fallen overboard.

Immediately after doing this, shift your engine into neutral. This will minimize propeller strike risk by stopping it from spinning.

  1. Keep looking at all the passengers who went overboard.

Doing this helps you keep track of their positions as you prepare to help them out of the water.

  1. Turn to pick those who fall overboard behind the boat.

Never reverse a boat while trying to pick someone up because you can hardly spot them.

Turn around until you can see the person right in front of you.

On that note, there are ways you can minimize damage from propeller strikes. These safety tips include:

  • Propeller guard. You can purchase these devices to partially or almost entirely encase the propeller. They resemble small round cages or rings. When a person or a body part draws towards them, the propeller guard blocks contact. Full Propeller guards have a wire cafe over the front. 
  • Kill switches. You can also refer to these devices as engine cut off devices. They can be affixed to a PFD. They are similar in size to a small keychain. You can outfit everyone onboard with one. When a crew member goes overboard, a sensor sends a signal to the engine. The engine shuts down automatically to prevent injury.
  • Lanyard kill switches. Boat operators should wear them as a safety routine. These devices link the boat to the operators’ life jackets or wrists by a line. They connect to the engine. Their extended movement from the hemp pulse the line free. The kill switch then switches off the engine.
  • Anti-feedback steering. This is a safe measure against the “circle of death.” Anti-feedback steering resists prop torque. This ensures no spinning when your hands get off the wheel. This rules out the likelihood of prop walk. Instead of turning dangerously, the boat will continue on a straight path.
  • Wear life jackets. These devices ensure you stay afloat in case of an overboard fall. Their attachment to a cut off line and sensors prevents you from drowning and protects you against propeller strikes.
  •  Limit alcohol and drug use. You should avoid alcohol whether you’re driving or a passenger. You can easily save yourself from an accident while sober than while intoxicated.
  • Stick to your positions. Don’t go near swimming zones and keep a safe distance from dive flags.
  • Be safe when boarding. Don’t turn on the engine until everyone has boarded the vessel.
  • Conduct a full boat walk before starting the engine. Walk from the bow to the stern and check the water. It can be difficult to see people near the propeller by looking from the helm.
  • Ensure nobody is near the swimming platform, swim ladder or boarding ladders while the engine is on. These are areas where swimmers are most likely to be.
  • Keep your passengers in safe, secure locations. Let each passenger have their own seat. Don’t allow anyone to ride on the bow, transom, the seat backs, and the gunwales. Hitting rough waters can throw people seated in such locations overboard.
  • Enlighten each passenger about the location of the propellers.
  • Keep one passenger on prop watch. The person will maintain watch around the propeller area in case there’s someone in the water. Swimmers can appear from nowhere.
  • Take a boating safety course. It’s ideal to learn how to control your vessel before indulging in the activity. You can simply Google boating safety courses in your area. Although these courses are short, they’re well worth your time.

What Piece of Boat Equipment is the Most Important in Preventing Propeller Strike Injuries?

A typical boat contains a small device at the console that can save your life and hinder propeller strike injuries from happening. 

It’s critical for every boater to be aware of this kill switch because it may be the difference between life and death.

The ignition safety switch is the most critical piece of boat equipment for preventing propeller strike injuries. It is often known as the engine cut-off switch.

This equipment turns off the boat engine immediately in case of an overboard fall. This halts the propeller from spinning to prevent it from causing damage.

Many powerboats come equipped with an ignition safety switch.  You shouldn’t worry much about being thrown overboard if your boat has one.

Purpose to get one for the safety of the crew in case your boat’s manufacturer doesn’t include it in the purchase.

This equipment ensures that the boat doesn’t move in circles when you’re throwing out of the driving position.

It causes an automatic engine halt when the driver moves out of position. This prevents injury from propeller strike once a passenger or the driver falls overboard.

How Does a Propeller Strike Cause Damage?

A typical three-blade propeller can spit at anywhere between 1200 RPMs and 3200 RPMs. But this depends entirely on the engine horsepower and the propeller size.

The number of propeller strikes in a propeller turning at 3200 RPMs is astronomical. Coming close to turning blades puts you at risk of 160 strikes per single second.

The extensive spinning can pull a full-sized individual under a boat quickly. In such cases, the propeller impacts your body, head to toe, in about one tenth of a second.

This explains why propeller strikes are fatal. There’s no response time once you’ve made contact.

Boats are made of a variety of metallic materials. Typically alloys of aluminum and steel as well as nickel and bronze. 

This is a dangerous mix because of the speed and torque. A rolling propeller can cut through a turtle’s shell in open water.

A sizable boat can easily wreck a smaller one. You can now imagine the amount of damage a person can get from such accidents.

Besides lacerations to flesh and profuse blood loss, a victim to propeller strike may die on spot.

Bottom Line

A propeller strike is one of the most fatal boat accidents. Apart from suffering serious injuries from the accident, a victim may die out of immediate trauma.

Getting into contact with the rolling propellers can cut through bones and lead to serious bleeding.

Getting an ignition safety switch is critical to prevent propeller strikes when the driver gets out of the driving position.

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