florida shrimper
Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Proper equipment, training can reduce falls overboard in commercial fishing industry: report

May 16, 2018

Atlanta — Falls overboard are the second leading cause of death in commercial fishing operations, according to a recent study from NIOSH.

From 2000 to 2016, 204 commercial fishing crew members died after unintentionally falling overboard. Of the 83 falls overboard that were witnessed, 56 rescue attempts were made and 22 victims were recovered but did not survive.

Records for each fatal fall were analyzed to gauge the circumstances of the fall, including time in the water, deployment of survival or rescue equipment, recovery attempts, and medical treatment.

None of the victims was wearing a personal flotation device at the time of the fall. Other findings:

  • Among 152 deaths for which pre-fall activity was available, 77 falls occured while the victims were working with fishing gear, including setting gear (35), hauling gear onboard (20) and handling gear on deck (12).
  • Of the 149 cases for which the cause of the fall was known, losing balance (48), tripping or slipping (47), and becoming entangled in gear (31) were among the top reasons.

Researchers recommend that boat owners implement prevention strategies that include use of lifeline tethers, line management, personal flotation devices, man-overboard alarms, recovery devices and rescue training.

The report appeared in the April 27 edition of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.