HomeSafetyFish Safe NS Adds Mobile Training Unit and New Programs

Fish Safe NS Adds Mobile Training Unit and New Programs

Splashes of Safety Celebration Returning in 2022 After a Two-Year Absence


A mobile training unit, a new Safety Equipment and Training Subsidy Program and a mental health and wellness initiative have been rolled out by Fish Safe NS over the past year to better serve the Nova Scotia fishing industry.

“The mobile training unit is a great tool to have on our side of things mainly for a couple of high-level reasons,” said Matthew Duffy, executive director of Fish Safe NS.

“With the mobile training unit, it allows us to take additional equipment we may not have had before so we have first aid kits with us, PFDs, emergency throw bags, all kinds of stuff. If the captain or crew need it, we have it there ready to go,” said Duffy.

The new mobile training unit is also cutting operating costs, said Duffy.

“Before, staff were using their own vehicles, coming from different directions, two or three vehicles. It’s established now we leave from our office. Everything is ready to go right in the mobile training unit. By doing so it keeps things much more organized and cuts our travel costs down considerably,” said Duffy.

“When we’re trying to get to the wharves, we’re trying to get to as many as we can before their season starts to give them the necessary resources to help them be compliant with Transport Canada and Department of Labour and other government regulators. The more efficiently we can do that the better served the industry at the end of the day. We are a non-profit, so if we can stretch that dollar a bit further to a greater benefit to the membership and the industry, we’re doing all right.”

This spring, Fish Safe NS has been focusing its wharf visits and man overboard drills along the Eastern Shore, the Northumberland Shore and all through Cape Breton.

“We will be hitting as many wharves as we can handing out resources and talking all things safety,” said Duffy.

“We’re really aiming to get to as many wharves as we possibly can from early April until the last couple of lobster seasons open in May. We’re going to be hitting the ground running.”

Duffy said there is a big push to get this year’s wheelhouse safety logbook distributed to the wharves in those areas.

“We sent out logbooks to members by mail, but in this case the logbooks are available to fishermen who are not our members, for every captain in province, so our goal is to get that distributed along with the navigational safety logbook and all the other resources we have lined up.”

Earlier this year, Fish Safe NS rolled out a Safety Equipment and Training Subsidy Program which covers 50 per cent of the costs for selected training courses and safety equipment for members. Forklift certification, marine basic and marine advanced first aid, reducing injuries in the workplace and Mental Health and Wellness for the Workplace are among the courses being subsidized.

The interior of the Fish Safe NS mobile training unit is well stocked with safety equipment used in the fishing industry. Contributed photo

Purchases of solid foam personal flotation devices (PFDs) and personal location beacons and a rebate for life raft inspections are also subsidized under the program.

“We’re getting really great uptake on that,” said Duffy. “Two of the more popular items in that are the life raft rebate and the PFD rebate.”

Members who can show proof of life raft inspection this year or in the last six months of 2021 are eligible for the $150 rebate. “The rebate is not a large amount of money, but it is still money and keeps people encouraged to keep their life raft inspected,” said Duffy.

The one-day Mental Health and Wellness for the Workplace course was launched last fall.

“It’s very encouraging to see the uptake in the conversations in terms of what different employers are going to be looking into doing long-term for their employees around mental health and wellness,” said Duffy.

“We’re in no position in the fishing industry to lose anymore people. Our workforce is already stretched thin. We need to make these investments otherwise we could see the workforce numbers dwindle further which is just going to cause a greater strain on our crews and employees.”

Duffy said Fish Safe NS has taken delivery of the Mental Health and Wellness for the Workplace course a step further to be able to better accommodate members and now have an in-house safety trainer.

“One of our safety advisors, Robin Rose, became certified and is hitting the ground running with that. We’re starting to schedule courses with members. Some of our bigger members we’re going right to their boats. Some of the offshore vessels we’re going right on board with their captains, managers and the rest of the crew. The uptake is good. We’ve been having a lot of very sincere meaningful conversations with people about this. Paired with everything going on in the world especially in the last two years and given stresses associated with fishing, there’s a lot on the mind of fish harvesters or folks working in processing plants or aquaculture farms. There are so many factors that go into what would determine a good day at work and possibility what your paycheque will look like. It’s crucial that we try and put these options out there for industry and try to help them,” said Duffy.

Safety in the Nova Scotia fishing industry will be celebrated again this fall when Fish Safe NS brings back the Splashes of Safety celebration after a two-year absence.

September 16 at the Westin Nova Scotia in Halifax is the date and location for the third annual Splashes of Safety. Fish Safe NS also has its annual general meeting that same day.

“That evening will be a down home feel so we’re going with a Nova Scotia kitchen party theme and going to have a great band and some comedians to provide some excellent entertainment,” said Duffy. “We’re going to have a really strong focus on all things Nova Scotia,” with a “great spread of seafood.”

Duffy said Fish Safe NS plans to give out six or seven awards as it usually does.

“We’re currently drafting up what they will look like and then we will send out for nominations and do the evaluations this summer. We’re currently in the strategic planning portion of it all,” said Duffy.

Safety in the Nova Scotia fishing industry is paying off, with a decrease in worker’s compensation rates for the harvesting sector in 2022 from $4.03 for every $100 of payroll in 2021 to $3.49 for every $100 of payroll in 2022. From 2015 to 2022, workers compensation premiums paid by the harvesting sector have dropped by $62 million.