Electrical power tools onboard fishing vessels

The purpose of this Safety Alert is to highlight the dangers of using 240-volt electric power tools on vessels where exposure to sea water is a risk factor.


A deckhand working on a fishing vessel operating off the Territory Coast in the Gulf of Carpentaria was killed when a large wave flooded the deck of the vessel in November 2013.

At the time of the incident, the deceased was operating a 240-volt portable angle grinder connected via an extension lead to a power socket within the vessel.

Preliminary findings suggest a probable cause of death was electrocution after water from the wave made contact with the angle grinder and its plug.

Contributing factors

  • The angle grinder was not protected by a residual current device
  • The deceased was barefoot when the incident occurred.

Action required

  • Conduct a risk assessment to identify:
    • if any equipment to be used is designed to be used in the intended work environment
    • possible safety hazards associated with the equipment and significance of the risk
    • what measures can be implemented to control or eliminate the risks.
  • Portable electrical equipment must either be specifically designed for use in a marine environment or used in locations where they are not exposed to contact with water
  • Portable mains powered electrical tools and extension leads must be kept away from water
  • A residual current device must protect all circuits used to supply portable electrical equipment
  • Appropriate personnel protective equipment (PPE) must be worn at all times.

Further information

Codes of Practice


This Safety Alert contains safety information following inquires made by NT WorkSafe about an incident or unsafe practice. The information contained in this Alert does not necessarily include the outcome of NT WorkSafe’s action with respect to an incident. NT WorkSafe does not warrant the information in this Alert is complete or up-to-date and does not accept any liability for the information in this report or as to its use.