Fishermen 'face huge death risk'
Irish fishermen are 40 times more likely to be killed doing their job than the average worker, a new safety campaign has warned.
The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) highlighted the stark statistic as it launched an awareness raising drive aimed at reducing rates of death and serious injury in the fishing sector.
A total of 44 fishermen have been killed in the last 10 years, in 24 separate fatal incidents.
The HSA said the main cause of the incidents was a vessel taking on water or capsizing and then sinking.
The next most common cause of fatalities was entanglement in nets or other gear and being dragged overboard.
The authority said in many cases the fishermen were not wearing personal flotation devices.
The sea fishing industry in Ireland has a workforce of almost 5,000 people directly employed and a registered fleet in excess of 2,100 vessels.
The HSA said in the last five years the fatality rate in the general working population was 2.5 deaths per 100,000 workers, while in fishing it was 92 per 100,000 workers.
Martin O'Halloran, chief executive with the HSA, said the campaign would highlight the dangers involved and the importance of properly managing safety and health before leaving port and while at sea.
"There's no doubt that fishing is a dangerous job and fishermen often work under very dangerous and extreme conditions where the smallest oversight can lead to disaster," he said.
"Under these circumstances it's vital that skippers manage the risks and take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their crew. Carrying out a risk assessment and preparing a safety statement for their boat will help skippers and owners identify the risks in advance and help to avoid the types of accidents we've seen all too often.
"Our inspectors regularly come across the same types of issues including injuries and ill health caused by slips and trips, entanglement, poor manual handling and general unsafe systems of work. We will continue to consult with fishermen and engage with industry stakeholders with a view to raising awareness. But it's vital that skippers and fishermen manage the very serious risks they're facing and work to ensure that tragedy doesn't strike their boat."
Mr O'Halloran said in a series of inspections carried out last November it was found that only 30% of fishermen inspected had a safety statement and only one in five had completed a risk assessment.
"We are concerned at the relatively low levels of compliance with the requirement to have a risk assessment and safety statement for fishing boats," he said.
"Completing this process has been shown to be highly effective in managing risk and reducing accidents across other industry sectors and can be equally effective in the fishing sector. This is obviously in everyone's interest, but most of all for the fishermen themselves."