Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (Aug. 2014)
Fatalities in the British Columbia fishing sector have declined sharply over the past decade, the Transportation safety Board of Canada (TSB) reports.
Statistics released by the Board on May 24, 2014, indicate that the West Coast has seen an average of 2.33 deaths per year in its fishing industry since 2004 – a decline from 4.16 in previous years.
“We are very encouraged by those kinds of numbers,” says the TSB’s senior Marine investigator Glenn Budden. “We have seen some really good signs in the initiatives going on across the country, including British Columbia, where we see safety improving.”
But Budden says the TSB is concerned that its scale for measuring fishing safety may not be sufficient. “The numbers we are using right now her fatality numbers,” he notes. “But we are not sure as an organization if that is the best measure of fishing-vessel safety.”
He adds that the fatality numbers across Canada remained relatively high, with one fatality per month on average.
Budden attributes improvements in the province’s safety record to public education and awareness of fishing safety. In 2004, the province’s fishing sector established Fish Safe, Canada’s first fishing safety organization, to improve safety on commercial fishing vessels.
“When we came on the scene, the number of capsizings was the main cause of fatalities in British Columbia,” says Gina McKay, program manager with Fish Safe. She adds that this program has led to a 44% reduction in fishing fatalities.
Resource management may also have played a role in British Columbia’s improving situation, Budden suggests. “They have taken fisheries-management steps that have made the fisheries somewhat safer, giving the fisherman more options,” he says, citing quota fisheries. “Fishermen have some other options rather than to race for the fish.”
He adds that Transport Canada is in the process of changing fishing-safety regulations with additional focus on fishing-vessel stability requirements.
Despite Fish Safe’s efforts in the province, the fishing sector remains a dangerous profession nationwide. Nova Scotia saw eight fatalities in the fishing industry in 2013, and fishing workers there are 34 times more likely to die by traumatic injury than other workers are.
The federal government has much to deal with and fishing deaths due to capsizing would be on the top of any list I could think of. I am very glad that BC has taken this data and has made great strides in fixing the problem.
It has been a while for me to see a report that had a marked improvement in occupational health and safety, even in the short term.
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