Risk assessment

After safety training, conducting regular risk assessments is the most effective way to ensure the safety of a fishing vessel's crew.

Under the Merchant Shipping and Fishing Vessels (Health and Safety at Work) Regulations 1997,
owners of UK-flagged commercial fishing vessels are responsible for health and safety on board their vessels, safe working practices and safety equipment.

The regulations require owners to assess the risks to health and safety of workers arising in the normal course of their activities or
duties, and of others affected by the vessel's activities. Similarly every person on board is required to inform the owner of any risks to health and safety arising from the conduct of their work.


Conducting risk assessments involves examining the vessel, its machinery and equipment and everything that happens onboard the vessel, from boarding to disembarking and everything in between. The purpose of these examinations is to identify anything that presents a risk to the health and safety of those onboard.

By identifying the hazards (sources of potential harm or damage, or situations with potential for harm or damage) present, the owner can then assess whether they are significant, by considering the likelihood of them occurring and the severity of the consequences.

For any significant hazards identified, the risk assessment must specify what precautions and controls are in place (or to be put in place) to eliminate, reduce or control the risk. In many cases working procedures can simply be adapted to reduce a risk; for others a minor modification to the layout of the vessel or the adoption of a new piece of safety equipment will do the job.

By properly completing a written assessment of a vessel, fishermen can show that health and safety has been considered and reasonable measures have been taken to ensure that the vessel is safe for its crew. However, remember that risk assessment is a continuous process. In practice, the risks in the workplace should be assessed before work begins on any task for which no valid risk assessment exists.

Risk assessment is a fundamental part of the Safety Awareness course that all experienced fishermen (those with at least two years' fishing experience) are required to complete. To support delivery of that course, Seafish created its  Fishing Vessel Safety Management Folder, which includes guidance and forms to assist owners with conducting risk assessments and setting up a safety management system.

Copies of the folder are available on request, free-of-charge to owners, skippers and experienced fishermen.                                  Call us now on 01472 252302 to get your free copy.

Alternatively, owners can access an online system for information, advice, guidance and for recording evidence of their risk
assessments and safety management at www.safetyfolder.co.uk (an independent service provided by Rockall Marine Ltd).

The Maritime & Coastguard Agency's free Fishermen's Safety Guide also contains useful guidance on risk assessment and the
European Commission has recently published guidance on Risk Prevention in Small Fishing Vessels.