Fisherman fatalities 40 times workplace average

Fishermen are almost 40 times more likely to be killed at work compared to the average worker.

The statistic forms part of a Health and Safety Authority public awareness campaign which will be launched today to help improve safety standards.

According to the campaign, the fatality rate in the general working population is 2.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, while in fishing it is 92 per 100,000 workers.

The HSA campaign has acknowledged that the fishing industry is naturally significantly more dangerous than other sectors due to the realities of the work involved.

However, despite this, the HSA has warned that the industry must take steps to ensure the safety of its workers after previous research found just one in three fishing boats had a safety statement, while only one in five completed adequate risk assessments.

“There’s no doubt fishing is a dangerous job and fishermen often work under very dangerous and extreme conditions where the smallest oversight can lead to disaster,” said HSA chief executive Martin O’Halloran.

“Under these circumstances, it’s vital skippers manage the risks and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their crew. Our inspectors regularly come across the same types of issues including injuries and ill-health caused by slips and trips, entanglement, poor manual handling and general unsafe systems of work.

“We will continue to consult with fishermen and engage with industry stakeholders with a view to raising awareness. But it’s vital skippers and fishermen manage the very serious risks they’re facing and work to ensure tragedy doesn’t strike their boat.”

Mr O’Halloran said the campaign has been launched due to the significantly higher workplace death rate associated with the sector, and the apparent lack of adequate safety measures on fishing vessels.

Mr O’Halloran said a widespread inspection of boats used by fishermen in Ireland in November found only 30% of vessels had a safety statement and just one in five had completed a risk assessment.

“We are concerned about the relatively low levels of compliance,” he said. “Completing this process has been shown to be highly effective in managing risk and reducing accidents across other industry sectors, and can be equally effective in the fishing sector.”

According to the HSA, a total of 44 fishermen died while working in Irish waters over the past decade, with the most common cause of death involving incidents where the vessel was sinking after taking on water. In a significant number of cases, the fishermen involved were not wearing any form of personal flotation device that could have saved their lives.

Among the most high- profile cases involved the Tit Bonhomme, which sank off Union Hall in West Cork on January 15, 2012, leading to the deaths of five of its six-team crew, including skipper Michael Hayes, three Egyptian fishermen, and Kevin Kershaw, 21, from Dublin, who was on his first trip to sea.

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