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Come Home Safe for the Holidays

The holiday season and all of its festivities and traditions will soon be upon us.

The countdown is on to when your home will be strewn with tinsel and lights, your tree will be overrun with gifts and there might even a stocking hung with your name on it. Most importantly, your loved ones will be home waiting for you.

If you work at sea, staying safe guarantees you can be home for the holidays this year.

It’s a tale as old as time for those in industries heavily focused on manual labour to roll their eyes and scoff at anyone involved in occupational health and safety. Maybe it’s a knee jerk reaction humans have, not wanting to be told something “they already know.”

So why, if we already know it all, has Canada seen 19 deaths in the fishing industry between 2020 and 2022?

Some accidents are, of course, just that — accidents. Other incidents, however, can be chalked up to a weak link in the safety chain.

One of the first steps in strengthening this safety chain is to identify your weak links and fix them. While you may think you know what to do in case of a fire or a man overboard situation or a flood, the difference between knowing what to do and practising what to do is vast. Drills are there for just that — drilling this kind of information into one’s head, until the right course of action is nearly second nature.

Fish Safe NS claims that in a perfect world, where safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, every fishing vessel in Canada would run through their emergency drills monthly, with a special emphasis on them during the start of a season or when a new crew member is brought aboard.

“From a Fish Safe NS perspective, we would recommend doing drills once a month and anytime a new crew member is introduced,” said Fish Safe NS Executive Director, Dylan Buchanan.

“The more practice, the better, which ensures the crew knows their muster station, safety procedures, where all safety gear is and how to use all their gear.”

Speaking of gear, having it inspected, knowing where it is and knowing how to use it is a must. While you may know how to put on a survival suit, for example, practicing getting it on efficiently is also important for when emergencies happen. Knowing all of your fire extinguishers work as expected can make all the difference. Knowing where the EPIRB is on your ship and whether it is registered can be the difference between life and death if emergency services need to find you.

Everyone on your boat should also be CPR certified. While it may make sense on paper that you only need one crew member to be properly certified, what happens if that designated crew member is the one who is incapacitated? When it comes to CPR training, it is better to have it and not need it then need it and not have it.

Finally, wear your PFD.

While there has been an encouraging uptick in PFD compliance in recent years, we all know that not 100 per cent of people aboard a vessel are eager to don this simple, but potentially lifesaving gear. Fish Safe NS has highlighted this issue as one of their greatest hurdles to overcome when it comes to occupational health and safety.

“We’ve seen it improve over the years. It’s not really where it needs to be. Obviously, it needs to be at 100 per cent. I don’t know if we’ll ever get there, but that’s where the goal should be,” said Buchanan.

While this time of year stresses the importance of togetherness, family and others that we hold near-and-dear, there isn’t a single day in our lives where those we hold close don’t want to see us come home safe and sound at the end of the day. For their sakes, if not yours, practice safety on the water every single day.