Fishing industry's safety and health

Posted by Keir Day, Safety Theme Leader on 10 October 2012

Some time ago Jon Harman and I thought of looking at how safety approaches differed globally and the need to look at those different approaches in order to improve the safety culture of our own industry and to share this information once collated. We started by visiting Iceland and, although we share the same problems, man overboard, watchkeeping, fatigue and single handed fishing to name a few, it became very obvious that Iceland tackled these problems in an entirely different manner to us. You may remember from my Iceland blog reporting that they had had a zero fatality rate 4 years running.

In July this year I attended a European Fishing conference in Sweden where I met with several like minded colleagues from Northern Europe. After some discussion it soon became obvious that we were all passionate about one thing, how to improve safety for fishermen in our own countries and share that information with others. We decided to hold a formal meeting, inviting other countries that may have an interest. This meeting took place in Riga, Latvia in early September, which was kindly hosted by the Novikontas Maritime Training Center. Those nations represented included Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden and the United Kingdom. In addition, there are contacts in Iceland and Norway who had wished to attend, but unfortunately could not make this meeting.

As this was the first time many of us had met, our hosts decided that we would all benefit from going back to basics and participating in some of the courses that we ask our fishermen to complete. We started with a fire lecture and then put out some pretty nasty fires, no fake smoke here you know!

As soon as the fires were successfully extinguished, we were then tasked to don another outfit to perform some high speed maneuvers in a rescue rigid inflatable boat (RIB). After that we headed out to sea at a speed of 60 knots and, as we hit the incoming waves, the boat leapt out of the water and slammed down very hard in the trough of the next wave. This continued for the next 30 minutes (I still have the bruises to prove it!) before we carried out some man over board drills using an 18 stone dummy until I complained, then we used a plastic one.

No sooner had we left the rescue boat, we were up in the classroom for some first aid instruction.

All well and good, but you may ask what was our purpose was in doing this? Firstly it was to remind us of the perils that fishermen can face and how to deal with incidents effectively.

Secondly, it was a fitting opportunity to bond as a team before our discussions in the afternoon and next day.

Each country then gave a presentation on all of the safety issues they face in their respective industries and how they cope with these issues through training, use of good safety equipment and government legislation. As you can imagine, the main safety issues were common to all of us, but how each country addresses these issues, and if they currently do at all, is entirely different. We obviously have a lot to learn from each other and in turn, we can share this collective knowledge with other countries that may not have the resources or technology to improve their fishermen's safety.

The group decided therefore that we should continue with these meetings, once or twice a year but maintain regular contact and discussion in the interim via a website that is being set up. The group is now called The Fishing Industry Safety and Health Platform (FISH Platform) and its role is to provide for the needs of the fishing industry through a joint approach to improve the safety and health of fishermen, with the common goal of reducing accidents in the industry. This is the main conclusion of the first meeting of the FISH Platform!

Keir Day, Safety Theme Leader

Please note content may only be reproduced with permission from Seafish, please contact Dawn Sneddon