Shock Hazard Protection for Shore Power Systems

A simple home-made Plexiglas barrier will increase safety when working on the back side of a panel board. Wood can work, too.

8th April 2013.
By Ed Sherman

Question: A friend of mine was telling me that the ABYC now requires that the AC (high voltage) side of electrical distribution panels on new boats have some sort of protective cover over it so that the risk of getting a shock from one of the terminals or a buss bar when working in behind the panel is minimized. My boat is an older boat and it doesn’t have anything covering the terminals on my circuit breakers or buss bars. I think this is a really good idea. Any tips on how I can get this done fairly easily?

AC Shock Protection

A home-made installation can be simpler than this, and can even be made of wood, although Plexiglas allows you to see the components behind.

Answer: The photo here shows one of the more elegant ways I’ve seen some people accomplish this upgrade. With a bit of careful measurement you can get a piece of 1/8″ Plexiglas and make a box just as you see in the photo. You’ll need to design in some small “ears” that can be drilled to facilitate attaching the box to the back of your distribution panel. All you need is a heat gun and a nice straight edge on a workbench to heat up the Plexiglas and bend it into shape. A simpler design that I’ve seen some folks apply is to take a properly sized piece and simply bend a 90-degree angle into it, allowing enough form to lift the flat section out from the electrical components, and another 90-degree bend to make that attachment ear. When done, the back side of the AC equipment will be covered on one side. Not a complete box, but this setup does represent a big safety improvement over having no cover at all.

I’ve seen some folks who are handy with woodworking tools simply make a wooden box to cover all the AC gear on the panel board back. I prefer the Plexiglas because I can still see what’s going on under the cover.

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About the author:

Ed Sherman

Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.

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