Propeller strike

This page contains safety guidelines designed to avoid the risk of serious injury from spinning boat propellers.

Boat propellers pose a risk that can too easily be ignored because they are 'out of sight and out of mind' under the water. A strike from a propeller can cause serious injury or even death.

Propeller-related injuries are preventable and the skipper must take precautions to ensure safety.

Skippers should consider the area around the propeller as a 'hazard zone', being vigilant to ensure that no part of any person comes near a spinning propeller.

This is particularly important for people involved in tow sports – like water-skiing and wakeboarding – and where powerboats are used near swimmers or children, such as sailing schools or surf clubs.

Top tips to avoid prop strike

We recommend some basic safety guidelines as follows:

  • Inspect the area near the stern to ensure the area is all clear before starting the engine
  • Turn the engine off near people in the water as some propellers may continue to spin, even in neutral
  • Skippers must follow operating rules – including keeping a proper lookout at all times when underway
  • Stay out of designated swimming areas
  • Observe 'distance off' rules and keep clear of people in the water, passive craft and other vessels
  • Brief any person driving the powerboat on the risks
  • Keep all arms and legs inside the boat and not over the bow or sides
  • Wear a kill switch lanyard whenever driving a vessel under power. A kill switch lanyard is attached to the arm, or securely to your clothing or lifejacket, and stops the engine when pulled out.

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

Take care, be prop awareLook out, divers about

Safety around divers and swimmers

Make sure you keep a good lookout for snorkellers, spearfishers, divers and swimmers. Be especially alert when you see the Alpha blue-and-white dive flag, which means divers, snorkellers or spearfishers are in the water nearby.

Read more about diving operations.

This video explains how to avoid propeller strike.

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