Safety First: Are you doing everything to make sure you and your crew come home?

If you are reading this you are probably an owner, skipper or deckie on a fishing vessel, or you have a partner, child or grandchild working on a fishing vessel. Fishing is the last of the ‘hunter-gatherer’ industries, man versus the sea, with long traditions and embedded culture.

But as the responsible officer on a vessel, you should be constantly asking yourself – are you doing everything in your power to make sure you and your crew come home? 

Watch this video before reading on.

Rules and regulations set minimum standards, but the real effect is only seen when the people who own, skipper and work on a fishing vessel make sure everything has been done to be safe while at sea.

Do you think that your mates on-board the vessel with you know how to save you in an emergency? What happens if they don’t?

Ask yourself these simple questions.

  • Does your vessel have a documented safety management system (SMS)?
  • Have you trained your crew in how that SMS works on your vessel?
  • Does your vessel practice emergency procedures on a regular basis, especially when a new crew member joins the vessel?
  • Does everyone on board know exactly what to do if a man goes overboard or there is a fire, or the vessel starts to sink, or a hand goes into a winch or net drum? Do you know what to do?
  • Do you have a problem wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) while working? If so, ask yourself why is this a problem, then ask yourself if it would be a bigger problem being tossed overboard without a PFD (fitted with a strobe light and a personal EPIRB) in the middle of the night or in rough weather conditions?

 Ask your loved ones if they think it is a problem with you wearing a PFD while at sea, or whether they think that it is a waste of time doing regular training drills in emergency procedures?

Now go back and watch the video again and listen to the crab fishermen who after 25 years of fishing still ran into a dangerous situation he never expected. Are you like him and think you’ve got it all under control? Then ask yourself if you really do have it all under control?

The AMSA and Worksafe authorities will be visiting every vessel in WA in the near future and they will be asking you how your vessel is dealing with all the basic safety things raised in the questions above.

Where a deficiency exists the owner may be asked to show cause as to why their vessel should not be prohibited from going to sea until the deficiencies are rectified.

In the meantime, keep asking yourself the question – Am I doing everything to make sure my crew and I come home?