Propeller Safety

NEWS - Propeller Safety

Mr Moore said a typical three-bladed propeller spins at around 3200 rpm and can make more than 100 impacts a second.

“Just last weekend a man had a narrow escape when he fell from his small outboard-powered runabout on Lake Illawarra and the boat kept going round and round in circles,” Mr Moore said.

“He was lucky not to be run over by his own boat. The man was not wearing a kill-switch lanyard which is a simple cut-out line that attaches to the arm and stops the engine when pulled out. It is good practice to wear a kill-switch lanyard when boating alone.”

NSW Maritime records reveal there have been 41 propeller strike incidents since January 2003 on NSW navigable waters, resulting in 5 fatalities, 39 serious and 7 minor injuries.

Mr Moore said propeller injuries were preventable.

“Prop strike can be horrific and it’s worth setting some prudent rules for passengers and operators alike,” Mr Moore said.

“The skipper of every boat is responsible for the safety of people on board, so every skipper should be vigilant and consider the area around the prop as a ‘hazard zone’.

“Being aware of this hazard zone is particularly important for people involved in tow sports like water-skiing and wakeboarding, and anytime powerboats are used near swimmers or children such as sailing schools and surf clubs.

“It is also important inexperienced people who occasionally hire powerboats such as tinnies and houseboats appreciate this hazard zone.

Mr Moore said NSW Maritime had raised the issue of prop strike last week at a national level, was writing to boating and surf clubs that conduct youth training, and was liaising with industry on the issue of prop guards.

NSW Maritime recommends some basic safety guidelines as follows:
• Keep legs inside the boat and not over the bow or sides;
• it is illegal to ‘teak surfing’ or holding on to the stern of a boat that is underway;
• Keep a proper lookout at all times when underway, especially when near swimmers;
• Inspect the area near the stern to ensure the area is all clear before starting up the engine;
• Turn the engine off near people in the water as some propellers may continue to spin, even in neutral;
• Stay out of designated swimming areas;
• Observe the ‘distance off’ rules and keep clear of people in the water, passive craft and other vessels; and
• The skipper/owner briefs any person driving the powerboat on the risks.

Skippers can also consider technology such as wireless engine cut-off switches, propeller guards and alternative propulsion systems.

The best action however is for skippers to take care, keep a proper lookout at all times and keep people out of the hazard zone.

More information on boating safety can be found at