Minister for Business and Employment Gerald Nash TD Launches Guidance for "Managing Health and Safety in Fishing"

18th December 2014

Fishermen are 40 times more likely to be killed whilst carrying out their work when compared with the general working population, making fishing by far the most hazardous sector to work in.

Over the 12 year period from 2002 to 2013 there have been 27 incidents resulting in 47 fatalities. During this time, potting was the most dangerous work activity accounting for the majority of the fatalities. On average there are about four or five fatal accidents annually in the sector. To date, in 2014, there has been 1 fatality in the sector.

Recognising this, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), with the assistance of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (BIM), has produced a guidance document, ‘Managing Health and Safety in Fishing’, aimed at the skippers and crew of small fishing boats. Approximately 90% of all registered Irish fishing vessels are less than 15 metres in length.

The aim of the guidance is to raise awareness of health and safety and contribute to reducing the number of serious and fatal accidents that occur in fishing. The guidance will assist fishermen in assessing and controlling the risks associated with their work and to improve standards of health and safety within the sector.

Speaking about the new guidelines Minister Nash said, “This is a welcome and timely guide for one of the most dangerous occupations we have. Fishermen work in a natural but unpredictable work environment and have difficult work conditions. Being at sea means that in many cases the consequence of an accident is more severe than if it occurred on shore. I hope this guide will help fisherman stay safe at sea and return unharmed to their families.”

Martin O’Halloran, CEO of the HSA said, “The document highlights the various roles of government departments and agencies in fishing safety, the main causes of accidents and injuries and the common hazards associated with fishing and with specific fishing operations. Although the guidance is principally aimed at fishermen who operate small fishing boats, parts of the guidance will be of interest and relevance to fishermen who work on or operate larger fishing vessels.”

According to Ray Murray of Bord Iascaigh Mhara, “This new guidance document is written in an easy-to-understand format and will be invaluable for skippers and crew of smaller boats. There are lots of useful tips on how to prevent accidents with much of the advice focusing on taking measures before going to sea. Fishermen operate in a highly dangerous environment and it’s vital that the appropriate precautions are taken. This new guidance will certainly help in that regard. We would encourage all fishermen to complete the mandatory safety training courses available at BIM’s National Fisheries Colleges and at key fishing ports around our coast.”

The document gives guidance on controlling the risks and managing health and safety on a fishing vessel. It also details the importance of having effective emergency plans and providing adequate instruction, information, training and supervision to employees, especially vulnerable workers.

Copies of the guide can be downloaded now from here.

Printed copies will be distributed widely in 2015.