A new report demands fishermen engage with renewed vigour in trying to reduce drowning and serious injuries in an industry which claimed, on average over the past decade, five male deaths yearly.
Fishermen are 40 times more at risk of death than any other industry in Ireland. Fatalities on trawlers are four times more likely than on a farm and 36 times more risky than on a construction site.
A report, entitled ‘Working Group on Safety, Training, and Employment in the Irish Fishing Industry’ which was completed more than two years, also advocates making the industry more attractive for new entrants.
The report stresses that changing the safety culture was “not something that can be achieved with a small number of actions”.
“It will happen if individuals change their own behaviour, take responsibility, and think ‘safety first’ whenever they are on the sea, in relation to themselves, their crews, and their vessels,” said the report.
With every fatality and accident having a wider and long-lasting effect on families, friends, and communities, the authors suggest that “these groups and individuals can also have a significant influence on the attitudes to safety”.
Families and friends should discourage fishermen going to sea if they are not safe and also remind them about safety issues such as personal flotation devices, weather, and emergency contacts.
The report also advises industry representative bodies to incorporate the safety message in training and to consider the areas where it needs to be targeted.
Irish Water Safety CEO John Leech led the report group, which included the heads of the industry’s main representative bodies along with interdepartment officials and BIM staff.
Mr Leech said it takes a very tough, committed, and dedicated person to be a fisherman, working in one of the most hazardous environments anyone could envisage.
The former Irish naval officer, who had been in charge of its diving section, said: “I was exposed to a number of search and rescue operations and fishing tragedies. These memories have stayed with me to this day.”
He said fishermen deserve great commendation for their contribution to the nation and economy. “We now want them to put safety on a higher platform with renewed vigour and create a culture which will not allow foreseeable incidents to occur which will end in injury and drowning,” he said.
Mr Leech said changes advocated in the report will challenge owners and fishermen alike, but added: “We believe, in the long term, it will improve safety, reduce injuries, improve the health and welfare of our fishermen, while trying to make it a more attractive career in the medium to long term.”
The US coastguard, Alaska’s Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Canada’s Fish Safe body in British Columbia were among the international experts that responded to a questionnaire from the report group.
The study, overall, examined a range of important issues such as safety standards and training on board vessels, compliance with regulations, recent technical innovations, and the fishing sector’s approach to personal safety.