The commercial fishing industry has significant dangers. For every 1,000 fishing boats, there are 55 accidents. This is why the UKs Maritime Coastguard Agency (MCA) regards safety on fishing vessels as a vital part of its work.
The MCA has introduced a series of health and safety courses for working fishermen. From 1st January 2005, every new fisherman must take a one-day basic sea survival course before starting life on board a fishing vessel.
Following this, there are other mandatory courses that a fisherman must attend within three months of beginning work. Each course lasts one day. They cover basic Fire-fighting and Prevention, Basic Health and Safety, and basic First Aid.
Fishermen with two or more years experience must also take a course. This lasts a day and teaches safety awareness and risk assessment.
Marine Notices are publications that give the fishing and shipping industries the latest information about issues such as safety and pollution. Marine Notice MGN 20, for example, has details about health and safety regulations that affect merchant and fishing vessels.
One particular concern the MCA has with life on board a fishing vessel is lifejackets. Some commercial fishermen dont wear them while on deck.
During the period from 1996 to 2006, 82 fishermen died when they fell overboard. In 2009, another 9 fishermen died. The MCA believes that if anyone who falls overboard is wearing a lifejacket or buoyancy aid, the chances of survival improve significantly.
Fishermens Safety Guide
The use of lifejackets is just one of the many topics the MCA has included in its Fishermens Safety Guide.
This guide is a manual of safety advice. Certain sections apply to skippers, owners and crew. But the guide makes the point that everyone on board has a duty to keep a vessel safe.
Other parts of the guide are for reference. A fisherman can turn to it for safety advice that applies at various times throughout the year.
The guide also covers emergency situations. Reading it, and taking note of its suggestions, can prepare fishermen for their best course of action in an emergency. New crew should pay particular attention to this section.
The Five-Year Strategy
The guide is a valuable document for all fishermen, new or experienced. The MCA has taken its concerns about health and safety in the fishing industry a stage further, however.
The Fishing Safety Five-Year Strategy is a document that contains every issue about fishing safety. Its aim is to bring together the groups who have an interest in fishing safety. The strategy also intends to resolve those safety matters that have the highest risk.
All who contribute to the strategy have an agreed purpose:
- To work with the fishing industry to create safety standards for vessels and crew that prevent accidents and damage to the environment
- To encourage a safety culture that addresses the risks fishermen face in their work
With this strategy, the number of fatalities and accidents in the commercial fishing industry may start to reduce.