Do Fishermen Have to Wear Lifejackets?

Falling overboard is the second most common cause of death for fishermen. Between 2000 and 2014, 210 fishermen died after falling overboard. None of them were wearing lifejackets or any type of personal flotation device (PFD). Despite this fact, there are no requirements or regulations for fishermen to wear PFDs while working—making deadly accidents more likely in an industry that already has a reputation for being dangerous.

Do Fishermen Wear Lifejackets?

According to a poll by the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH), 16 percent of respondents don’t wear PFDs while working despite saying that they think they’re important for safety. The fishermen cited discomfort, entanglement, and restricted movement as reasons they choose to not wear any PFD.

The same study asked 200 fishermen to wear a PFD while working for one month to help determine which types are most wearable. From this test, a set of guidelines for the best types of PFDs for specific industries was created.

Information for the best-rated PFDs for each industry may be found here:

There are many different types of life jackets for fishermen to choose from and they often vary based on the fishery. For example, based on a survey conducted by NIOSH, crabbers preferred to use Mustang and Sterns Inflatable Suspenders, while longliners tended to favor using Mustang Suspenders only. Other fisheries preferred inflatable suspenders, oilskins, and foam vests. Because the daily tasks can vary between each fishery, it is important that fisherman and vessel owners not only share information about the best life jacket for their boat but also encourage or mandate the workers to wear them while on deck.

Are Fishing Companies Liable for Overboard Accidents?

Because of the number of deaths caused by workers going overboard, the use of life jackets has become a top priority for NIOSH. Wearing a life jacket will not prevent every death, but it certainly increases the chances of survival in the event that a fisherman goes overboard. The organization is calling for employers to implement plans and protocols for when workers should be required to wear a life jacket. Additionally, NIOSH has been pushing the importance of the use of man overboard alarms, personal locator beacons, and closing water-tight hatches on fishing vessels as important safety precautions that can help prevent fatalities.

Though life jackets aren’t a requirement, employers might be liable for life jacket-related accidents and injuries. Ultimately, it’s up to companies to make sure their workers are safe and protected as they carry out the duties of their job. So, if a fishing accident is clearly preventable, an employer has the legal obligation to make sure steps are taken to stop one from happening.

Call Our Fishing Injury Lawyers Today for a Free Consultation: (888) 346-5024

The importance of safety aboard fishing vessels cannot be overstated. Fishing is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country; not following standard safety procedures simply exacerbates those dangers. Sadly, the vast majority of those injuries could have been prevented with just a little extra caution and care. Our offshore attorneys have helped maritime workers who have been injured while working offshore, and we're ready to demand the compensation that you need to move forward after a serious accident.

If you have been injured while working offshore, contact our maritime injury lawyers today to learn how we can help you receive the medical treatment you require and be compensated for the injuries you suffered.

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