While Senate Bill 297 originally included a ban on swimming around docks with electricity, State Rep. Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark) said this provision has been taken out. After being heard in Senate committee, it is now a Senate Committee Substitute without the prohibition on swimming and with “more realistic inspection language,” according to Miller.

A bill in the Missouri State Senate is proposing annual inspections of all docks with electricity and other measures to try to prevent electroshock drownings.

State Senator Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) is the sponsor of the proposed “Alexandra and Brayden Anderson Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Act,” named after the two children who died from electroshock drowning in the Lake of the Ozarks on July 4, 2012.

While Senate Bill 297 originally included a ban on swimming around docks with electricity, State Rep. Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark) said this provision has been taken out. After being heard in Senate committee, it is now a Senate Committee Substitute without the prohibition on swimming and with “more realistic inspection language,” according to Miller.

Lake area fire chiefs are working with Hummel to match the bill language to the current processes.

“A major problem with the substitute is the liability language and it does not go far enough to acknowledge personal responsibility,” said Miller. “I am working with the bill sponsor and Ameren to make this bill better.”

However Miller noted that it is still early in the process of hammering out an agreement on how the final bill would look.

“I feel confident the House can make it workable or not move it forward,” Miller said.

As introduced, the bill would require “any individual or entity that owns any body of water in this state upon which any boat dock or marina that is equipped with electrical power is located” to ensure that “each such boat dock or marina be in compliance with the National Fire Protection Association's 2011 edition of the Fire Protection Standard for Marinas and Boatyards (NFPA 303), and with Articles 250 (Grounding and 10 Bonding), 553 (Floating Buildings), and 555 (Marinas and Boatyards) of the 2011 edition of the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70: National 12 Electrical Code (NEC), 2011 Edition).”

Annual statements that the dock or marina had passed a compliance inspection to the department of public safety would also be required with the additional requirements scheduled to begin July 1, 2019.

Violators would be subject to certain fines and penalties. Failure to ensure compliance would be a $2,500 fine and closure of the dock or marina or the disconnection of electrical service to the boat dock or marina within 90 days of the date the boat dock or marina is not in compliance, or both.

Any injury caused by failure to ensure compliance with the codes would be subject to a fine of $5,000 and a term of imprisonment not to exceed six months. Any death caused by the failure to ensure compliance, in addition to any other penalty provided by law, would be a fine of $50,000 and a term of imprisonment not to exceed one year.

Failure to submit the annual statements of inspection in a timely manner would mean a fine of $500 and the closure of such boat dock or marina, or the disconnection of electrical service to the boat dock or marina within ninety days of the date of the failure to submit the inspection statement as required by the department of public safety, or both.

Despite the fines, the bill states that it would not limit civil liability in any of these cases and requires the department of public safety to create rules to implement its provisions.

The bill would also require Missouri State Highway Patrol Water Patrol Division vessels to be equipped with automated external defibrillators with at least one person on board trained to use the AED. It would also require training for marine troopers in rescuing victims of shock injuries.

The bill is similar to past proposed legislation that has failed to garner much support from lawmakers.

Ameren Missouri has partnered with fire districts since 2006 in inspecting and permitting docks new or modified docks or docks that have been moved. But it’s docks outside of the participating districts that have concerned officials.

Thousands of docks exist outside of these districts. According to past estimates from Ameren Missouri, there are about 5,000 docks that do not fall under the jurisdiction of any participating fire district. Of the estimated 25,000 docks on the Lake, 20,000 are regulated to some degree.

While owners can have docks independently inspected, there is no permitting authority in place to do official inspections. Whether in a participating district or not, however dock owners are responsible for maintaining the dock.

With significant wake action on Lake of the Ozarks during the warm weather months and other factors, dock electrical systems can quickly deteriorate and officials have campaigned in the years since the deaths of these children and others to promote regular inspections of ground fault circuit interruptors and visual inspections of the system for proper wiring and grounding. Professional inspections of dock electrical system are encouraged each spring, but are not required.