OTTAWA (Canadian OH&S News)
Despite some major overhauls to safety rules and regulations, Canada’s fishing industry seems to be stuck in the past when it comes to keeping its workers safe, and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada says comprehensive action is needed to right the ship.
The board recently released the findings of its three-year investigation into safety in the fishing industry and put forward 10 key issues that the industry, regulators and the fishing community as a whole need to address if they are going to see a positive impact on health and safety upon the sea.
Glenn Budden, the lead investigator for the report, said the study was launched because the TSB came to the realization that they had been dealing with many of the same issues for the last two decades with little improvement in fatality rates — the industry averages one death a month, year over year.
This comes despite a bevy of new rules and regulations, such as standard first aid education, basic tool requirements and minimum training standards, as well as the numerous investigations the board has conducted and the information that has resulted.
“The continued loss of life in the fishing industry was unacceptable to the TSB. Why are we still having the same fatality rate and loss of life as we had 20 years ago?” Budden asked. “The industry and the fishing community haven’t really grasped the idea that the issues are interconnected and that the solutions are going to need to be co-ordinated as well.”
He gave the example of a vessel capsizing. In addition to a stability issue, he said, safe work practices, training, rules and regulations, and available safety information also has to be taken into consideration.
Time still needed for past changes to take effect
Christian Braun, executive secretary of the Maritime Fishermen’s Union, said with the amount of work and money industry stakeholders have invested over the past few years, the lack of improvement in safety is disappointing
“There have been some very important changes in the way harvesters conduct their business, imposing some measures that have been really important in our view,” he said, but added that over the past three years, he has seen a big change in the fishing safety culture on the East Coast that could signal better numbers to come.
“The feeling is that time hasn’t really permitted to feel the impact yet because a lot of these measures are coming into the younger generation of harvesters.”
The 10 critical safety issues identified by the TSB are as follows:
—Stability: Fishermen need to understand and apply the principles of stability and apply them to fishing operations.
—Fisheries resource management: Identifying and reducing safety risks should become an integral part of fisheries resource management.
—Lifesaving appliances: Lifesaving appliances should be properly designed, carried, fitted, used, and maintained for fishing operations.
—Regulatory approach to safety: A regulatory framework should be coordinated and consistently applied, and needs to support a safety culture in the community.
—Training: Training needs to be effective and be reinforced by regular practice.
—Safety information: Practical, understandable safety information should reach those in the fishing community who need it.
—Cost of safety: The fishing community needs to accept the cost of safety as an integral part of fishing.
—Fatigue: The risks of fatigue must be understood and managed.
—Fishing industry statistics: Accident data needs to be collected, analyzed, and communicated in a coordinated way to help the fishing community.
—Work practices: Safe work practices need to become routine.
Greg Burchell is the assistant editor of Canadian OH&S News