A dock with railings for safety

Here at our Florida headquarters, we enjoy sunny boating weather year-round. Whether you’re enjoying the warm beach water or are out on the lake on a crisp winter day, it’s always important to remember good safety practices on your deck or dock.

Practicing good deck and dock safety will ensure you and your family keep enjoying time outdoors on the water. 

To help get your safety checklist in order, our team has put together a few safety tips and reminders about regulations and permits.

1. Don’t Underestimate Good Lighting 

If you’re keen on early-morning fishing trips, late-night boat rides, or winter evenings on your deck, you’ll want to make sure you have adequate lighting for all walking paths. 

Even if your terrain is relatively flat, a wrong step or accidental trip could send you toppling into the water or tripping over a missed step. Save yourself an injury or unplanned swim by installing lights to railing or piling post caps, wharf lights, or riser lights. We carry a variety of lighting options for aesthetic-minded customers.

Ensuring an area is well lit is a safety essential, especially if you have small children running around or elderly family members with low vision.

2. Install Barriers and Gates 

Don’t have a gate at the entrance to the deck and water? You may be overlooking an important safety feature.

The entrance to your deck should have a gate (which can be removable). This is essential for families with pets and young children who don’t always understand the hazards of the water.

Similarly, you’ll want to ensure that water access points have some sort of rope or barrier like an attractive railing. Kids and grandparents are at higher risk of falling over into the water. With that extra level of security in place, you’ll have peace of mind should an accident happen. 

Furthermore, consider adding bumpers to your dock. These structures can help protect the dock in the event of a rough landing by absorbing the shock of a sudden impact.

3. Never Forget Your Cord Discipline 

Yearly checks of all the docking ropes are imperative. These assessments ensure there is no excessive wear or corrosion.

Frayed, rotten, or broken ropes should be replaced immediately. This is to make sure there’s no tearing or breaking that could lead to the boat spontaneously unhitching—and drifting away.

It’s also important to keep ropes and cords clear of walking areas when not in use to prevent trips and falls. 

4. Keep Ladders and Stairs in Good Shape

Stairs and ladders are a simple solution to dock safety—so always make sure they’re accessible and not in disrepair. Get all creaky steps checked out immediately and don’t ignore wobbly ladders.

If you are using your dock for swimming, having a ladder to climb is much safer than walking up the rocks or pulling yourself up on the wood. Pulling up from the wood can lead to splinters, scrapes, and bruises. Not to mention it takes more energy—which can be dangerous for an exhausted swimmer.

Stairs can make it easier for children and older family members to make it down a steep incline without risk of falling or slipping.  A ramp may increase the risk of falling, especially in slick conditions. 

5. Remember Life Jackets and Life Rings 

Even with all the necessary precautions in place, accidents still happen—and you need to be prepared. 

Always wear a life jacket when on a boat. Help kids and young teens put theirs on if they’re not old enough to do it themselves. If someone slips on the deck and falls into the water, ensure there are life rings nearby. It’s good to have rings on the boat and on the dock.

These dock safety items should be available to toss out at a moment’s notice. When someone is struggling to get air, every second counts. These items can offer help immediately—and prevent accidents from turning into tragedies.

6. Keep It Clean

Even adults can easily trip and fall on loose or rotting boards or on a deck without proper weather sealants. Routine cleaning will improve dock safety and ensure it looks just as great as it did when installed. 

For storms, bring in loose items before the wind picks up to prevent things from getting tossed around. Tie down furniture pieces that are too large to bring inside. And clean up right away—don’t let wet leaves, broken branches, or scum or sludge from the water sit around for too long.

Finally, during routine maintenance, ensure no pilings or railings have slanted, no bolts are rusted, and no wood is rotted. You should periodically check your deck for issues at least once or twice a year. If you spot a problem you don’t know how to fix, call an expert for help.

With routine maintenance, you’ll keep everyone safe and spend less on repairs. 

7. Be Compliant 

You may think that installing a dock or a deck as a DIY project means you don’t need any permits or meet certain requirements. However, several rules and regulations go into having even a private structure.

Dock regulations differ depending on your municipality. However, in general, they require that you avoid damaging the lake or its inhabitants. You cannot block public access to the water.

Some areas may require you to remove the dock during the winter months to avoid freezing. In these situations, your only option would be to install a floating dock. Other regulations include restrictions on certain types of materials used to build the dock. 

In 2018, 14% of all water vessel accidents occurred due to docking issues. These regulations are in place to ensure the dock safety of the owners and others—so don’t neglect the rules just because you think no one’s watching.

Takeaways

Owning a dock is a significant responsibility, especially since it can impact others in the surrounding area. Before you commit to building your own, make sure you look up the local regulations. If you’re found to be in noncompliance, you could face fines or orders to remove the deck or dock.

Dock safety requires taking the extra time to consider who’s using the space and what risks they face. Part of it is common sense. If you know the deck gets slick after it rains, it will help to install a railing or try a new sealant. 

Take a moment to inspect your deck and see what improvements you could implement. That way, you can make it as safe as possible for everyone. 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team here at Deck & Docks. We’re happy to get your deck and dock safety in order.