Summer is ‘not the time for fishermen to become complacent’

Whitby view. Overlooking Whitby . pic Richard Ponter 171214b
Whitby view. Overlooking Whitby . pic Richard Ponter 171214b

On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Seafish’s Head of Safety and Training Simon Potten reminds fishermen that the summer period is not a time to be complacent at sea.

For many fishermen the arrival of spring signals the start of their busiest time; warmer days, calmer seas, better visibility and (hopefully) fish and shellfish aplenty.

However, even in seemingly benign conditions fishermen are at risk.

Between June and September one third (33%) of non-fatal, major injury accidents occur, with fatigue often the main cause.

As we look ahead to the summer months, now is the time to take stock of safety procedures on-board commercial fishing vessels.

A disturbing safety record

While fishing safety has improved, the rate of improvement is still far too slow. Since records began; no single year has come without its fatalities. A single life lost at sea, will always be one life too many.

As Head of Safety and Training, I do not accept that loss of life and serious injuries are inevitable consequences of the dangers of working as a commercial fisherman. Safety and the protection of our fishermen must be put above all else.

Effective leadership

Skippers and owners are responsible for the safety of their vessels, the machinery and equipment used on-board and their crews.

They must provide effective leadership to change attitudes, mind-sets and most importantly behaviours when it comes to safe working practices onboard their vessels. Research carried out by Seafish, showed that more than two fifths (43%) of crew members would be influenced by a positive example set by senior colleagues.

Most fatalities result from fishermen falling overboard.

Skippers and owners must ensure that on-board working practices are designed to reduce the risk of crew members falling or being dragged overboard or risking serious injury from deck machinery.

Regular maintenance and testing to ensure equipment is operating safely must be carried out, with skippers (and owners) leading by example.