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What safety measures should fishing vessel operators take?

Many people in and around New Orleans are involved in the commercial fishing industry. The Gulf of Mexico and the lakes and bayous of Louisiana can be great places to harvest fish, crustaceans and other tasty sea dwellers. Strong and intelligent workers are needed to make this industry operate. But working in this industry is not without its risks.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The fatality rate in the commercial fishing industry is nearly 40 times higher than that of the average American job. Hazards encountered while on the job include falls overboard, machinery on deck and vessel disasters such as capsizing or sinking.

The CDC offers recommendations to fishing vessel owners and operators in order to improve worker safety. These include conducting monthly drills for events such as man overboard, fire, flooding and abandoning ship. Operators should install a man overboard alarm system and man overboard retrieval equipment. They should also create a policy to promote the wearing of personal flotation devices for crew members working on deck. Owners or operators should install emergency stop devices on hydraulic deck machinery to prevent entanglement injuries. All workers should receive training in marine safety at least every five years.

Sometimes owners and operators follow these recommendations; other times they do not. When offshore workers suffer injury as a result of their work, they may have maritime law remedies available to them. Many injured workers who sought legal help have been awarded damages to help them cope with the effects of their injuries.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Commercial Fishing Safety," accessed on Dec. 3, 2016

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