Home and Dry – the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG) campaign sharing vital messages about safety at sea – is launching a new man-overboard (MOB) prevention campaign this week to remind all those working on fishing vessels to take three simple steps to reduce the risk of death from falling overboard. 

A dedicated second rail has been installed, running around the shelterdeck to which crewmen can clip their safety harnesses when working on the top deck.

Data shows that 85% of fatalities in the fishing industry involve people ending up in the water, and 42% off all deaths are recorded as man-overboard incidents.

Over the past winter, seven fishermen tragically lost their lives whilst working on fishing vessels, devastating communities around the UK. Six of those fatal incidents saw fishermen ending up in the water. 

Over the past 10 years (2011 to 2020), the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) reported 60 fatalities from UK fishing vessels, and 51 of them ended up in the water. Twenty-five deaths were recorded as man-overboard incidents. The highest number of fatalities occur on vessels under 15m.  

To help reduce deaths at sea from falling overboard, the new FISG campaign is reminding those who work on fishing vessels to take three simple steps:

  1. Complete a written risk assessment and review it regularly 
  2. Practise man-overboard drills regularly
  3. Always wear a personal flotation device (PFD) on deck in case the worst happens.

The campaign’s dedicated safety website offers helpful resources from a range of organisations to help those working on fishing vessels to stay safe. It includes videos on how to do a risk assessment, advice on man-overboard drills and training, and information on how to wear a PFD properly.  

Brian Chambers, a crab and lobster fisherman from Northern Ireland, who has created a safety video for the campaign, says: “One of the most important things in fishing is safety. As a skipper, I am always working to ensure me and my crew avoid going in the water at all costs, and I wanted to show other fishermen how easy it is to do a risk assessment on their vessels. 

“Far too many people have lost their lives from falling overboard – lives that could have been saved with better safety practices.” 

Wearing a PFD at all times when on deck, unless the risk of going overboard has been eliminated by other means, is now a legal requirement.

The FISG is a group of industry organisations, charities, public bodies and regulators set up to improve the safety of commercial fishing. Its ultimate goal is zero preventable deaths at sea, and to reduce the number of serious accidents and vessels lost due to health and safety issues. The FISG is made up of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, Seafish, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, the Northern Ireland Fishermen’s Federation, the Welsh Fishermen’s Association, the RNLI and the Shipbuilders and Shiprepairers Association. 

Brian Johnson, chief executive of the MCA and chair of the FISG, said: “This campaign is coming at a crucial time for the fishing industry. With seven fishermen losing their lives over winter, we want to ensure fishermen are doing everything they can to keep themselves safe at sea. 

“It’s also important to remind vessel owners and skippers that some safety actions are required by law – such as the written risk assessments and wearing a PFD on deck. As the weather gets warmer and smaller boats get ready to get back out to sea, we’re asking fishermen to take a moment to see if they could do more to improve safety practices on their vessels.”  

“Don’t wait for an accident to happen to brush up on safety management,” said John Clark, skipper of the Reliance III, who was pulled overboard by a rope in 2013. “It’s not until I was in hospital, attached to a bed and having to sit through countless operations, that it dawned on me that I was lucky to survive. 

“It was at that moment that I decided I would do everything I could to ensure what happened to me never happened to one of my crew.” 

The campaign website is at: homeanddry.uk 

This feature was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. Subscribe here for more great content on the UK and Irish commercial fishing industry.

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