Commercial fishing can be a very lucrative career. Ship owners and individual workers can command premium wages for the hours that they work. Depending on the fish caught, a single trip out on the open ocean could result in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue.
However, those major profits also come with a lot of risks. Professional fishermen have some of the highest rates of fatalities out of any professionals in the United States. Whether you are a fisherman or have a family member who harvests seafood for profit, learning about the most dangerous elements on the job could help you or your loved one stay safe.
Emergencies involving vessels
The sad truth is that the top cause of fatal incidents involving professional fishermen is catastrophic incidents involving the vessels. According to federal workplace safety statistics, approximately 49% of fishermen fatalities directly relate to an emergency that affects the vessel where they work.
It takes a lot of practice to have sea legs or the ability to walk safely and stably on a deck pitching back and forth over the waves. There is also the risk of nets or lines tangling up around someone’s feet and pulling them overboard even if they maintain their balance very well.
Another 30% of fisherman fatalities involve workers going overboard. Frequently, they do not have personal flotation devices (PFDs) on at the time that they go overboard, which makes the incident that much more dangerous.
Heavy equipment and large fishing tools can easily lead to a worker getting unexpectedly injured. Someone swinging their arm wildly could hit someone with a tool and cause abdominal injuries that prove fatal.
Roughly 12% of fishermen fatalities involve some kind of injury suffered on board the vessel. The likely delay in medical care after such an injury may contribute to the risk of a fatality from penetrating injury or blunt force trauma onboard a fishing vessel.
Fishermen who know and acknowledge the top causes of fatalities on the job may effectively reduce their own risk of getting hurt. Pursuing a claim for compensation may be a necessary step both for injured fishermen and surviving family members after a maritime fatality.