Boat propeller precautions you need to know

Last week a woman shredded her leg in a propeller while mooring her boat on Wave Break Island. The accident could result in the woman losing her leg.

Paramedics told the Gold Coast Bulletin that the woman was pulling the boat to shore in waist deep water when the engine propeller struck her repeatedly.

A man pulled her away from the blades, while bystanders raised the alarm and helped the woman until emergency services arrived.

According to NSW Maritime records, there have been 41 propeller accidents in the past six years in that state alone.

Unfortunately, propeller accidents are far too common. This is why we’ve taken time out to blog about how to stay safe around propellers this summer.

Why are propellers so dangerous?

  • The average boat propeller (with 3 blades) rotates at approximately 32,00 RPM.
  • At this rate, a propeller can cause 160 impacts per second.
  • This means a propeller can go from the head to the toes of a typically sized person in under 1/10 of a second, causing many deep wounds in the process.
  • Propellers are under water, which also means they are easy to forget (or ignore). In the case of propellers, out of sight should not mean out of mind.
  • Facts sourced from the Centre for Maritime Safety NSW.

Who is at risk?

As a result of boat propeller accidents in NSW, the State Government started a ‘Take Care – Be Prop Aware’ campaign, in a bid to improve public awareness of propeller related accidents.

The Transport of NSW ‘Prop Aware’ websites states that people who partake in water tow sports, such as wake boarding and water-skiing, should be particularly careful.

The department also says that people should be wary:

“…any time powerboats are used near swimmers or children, such as sailing schools and surf clubs. Being ‘prop-aware’ is also important for people diving or snorkeling out of a vessel, and for boat drivers operating in areas where divers, snorkelers or spearfishers may be present.”


Boat propeller precautions

NSW Maritime released a guide that details how to stay safe around propellers. Here are the top guidelines highlighted in the resource:

  • Always keep your arms and legs in the vessel, and never over the sides or bow.
  • ‘Teak surfing’ or bow riding is illegal in NSW. (This is when a person holds the stern of a boat while it is in motion.)
  • Always wear a lanyard connected to a kill switch, if you’re boating alone. The kill switch lanyard is connected to the arm, and turns the engine off when it is pulled away.
  • Consider wireless engine cutoff switches, propeller guards and other propulsion systems that are less dangerous.
  • Of course, the best prevention method is for skippers to take extra care, and ensure all crew members are encouraged to stay ‘prop aware’ too.
  • Head here for the full guide.

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Boat propellers