It's required that all crewmembers on the deck of a fishing vessel wear a PFD or a lifejacket.

PFDs save lives

For those in a high-risk industry like commercial fishing, it’s never “just another day at work.” Drowning is the leading cause of death for B.C.’s fishermen, and safety in commercial fishing remains a top concern. There were 19 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2011 and 2020. Of those, 14 were drowning related. No matter what your role is on the vessel, crew safety affects everyone.

If you’re a crewmember on the deck of a fishing vessel, you are required by regulation to wear a PFD or lifejacket. As the master (or skipper), your crew will follow your example; it’s your responsibility to make sure everyone on deck wears a PFD — including you.

Crew safety: What are your responsibilities?

As the skipper, you’re responsible for the health and safety of your crew while on the water. Ensuring the safety of your crew includes:

  • Providing training and instruction on workplace hazards
  • Making sure everyone on the crew — including you — uses protective equipment and devices, including PFDs and lifejackets
  • Having a safety plan in place
  • Establishing procedures and assigning responsibilities to each crewmember to cover all emergencies
  • Conducting drills at the start of each fishing season, when there is a change of crew, and at periodic intervals to ensure that crewmembers are familiar with emergency procedures
  • Making sure that a copy of the Workers Compensation Act (Act) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Regulation are available for reference

Both owners and masters (skippers) of fishing vessels are employers. Under the Act and the OHS Regulation they have varying and overlapping duties and responsibilities.

Skippers, because they have the most control during fishing operations, are the employer with primary responsibility for the health and safety of the crew while the vessel is being operated.

Masters’ and owners’ full legal roles and responsibilities can be found under Part 2 of the Act (see sections 13, 21, 24, 30) and Part 24 of the OHS Regulation and Guidelines G24.70—G24.100.

How do I help keep my crew safe?

While the skipper or master is legally responsible for safety on the vessel, creating a culture of health and safety while working on the water is everyone’s responsibility. Here are some resources to help you and your crew stay safe.


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