Commercial Fishing Safety

Updated April 15, 2020

Commercial fishing is one of the most hazardous occupations in the United States with a fatality rate 29 times higher than the national average. Since 1991, the NIOSH Western States Division (WSD) office in Alaska has conducted studies of fishing safety to reduce the incidence of injuries and fatalities among the nation’s fishermen. Our studies show that the greatest dangers to fishermen are vessel disasters, falls overboard, and machinery on deck. WSD continues to identify high-risk fisheries nationwide, make recommendations, and create targeted interventions to reduce risks.

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NIOSH Recommendations to Fishermen

NIOSH recommends that all fishermen should:

  • Take a marine safety class at least once every 5 years
  • Find a comfortable PFD and wear it on deck at all times
  • Do monthly drills including abandon ship, flooding, fire, and man overboard
  • Heed weather forecasts and avoid fishing in severe sea conditions
  • Maintain watertight integrity by inspecting and monitoring the hull of the vessel, ensuring that watertight doors and hatches are sealed, and inspecting and testing high water alarms regularly
  • Utilize a man overboard alarm system
  • Test immersion suits for leaks if operating in cold water

NIOSH recommends that all vessel owners/operators should:

  • Create a PFD policy for the crew while working on deck
  • Conduct monthly drills including abandon ship, flooding, fire, and man overboard
  • Install a man overboard alarm system, and man overboard retrieval devices
  • Install emergency stop (e-stop) devices on hydraulic deck machinery to prevent entanglement injuries
  • Ensure all crew members have completed marine safety training in the past 5 years

Page last reviewed: April 15, 2020, 11:45 AM