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New fishing-industry safety video illustrates importance of wearing life-saving PFDs

Published on: November 06, 2018

Richmond, B.C. — WorkSafeBC is raising awareness about the importance of wearing life-saving personal flotation devices (PFDs) in the fishing industry.

Chris Cook

Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the province, and drowning is the leading cause of death among B.C. fishermen. WorkSafeBC statistics reveal there were 26 work-related deaths in the commercial fishing industry between 2007 and 2017, and among those, 16 were drowning-related.

As part of WorkSafeBC’s awareness efforts, a new video, Turning the Tide: PFDs in the Fishing Industry, recounts two tragic stories of commercial-fishing workers who lost their lives at sea, and one story of a guide who nearly drowned, all of which might have been prevented if the workers had been wearing PFDs.

In the video, Chris Cook and Dennis Woloshuk describe the turn of events that led to the commercial-fishing boat they were working on capsizing in freezing temperatures. Then, Kim Pepler talks about losing her son, Ben Dick, who died at 25 while working on a prawn fishing boat. Finally, Ben Angus, a sport-fishing guide, recounts a serious incident that resulted in him falling overboard and nearly drowning.

In each circumstance, wearing a PFD might have dramatically changed the course of events and potentially saved lives.

“It’s easy to become complacent about the risk of drowning while working on a fishing boat, but the danger is very real,” says Patrick Olsen, Manager, Prevention Field Services for WorkSafeBC. “PFDs have evolved tremendously compared to 10 or 20 years ago — find the one that works best for you and wear it. It could save your life.”

Employers are responsible for ensuring workers are wearing PFDs, where there is a risk of drowning. Masters have primary responsibility for the health and safety of the crew while the vessel is being operated. Under the Workers Compensation Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation, owners and masters have varying and overlapping duties and responsibilities, which can be found under Part 3 of the Act and Part 24 of the OHSR and Guideline G24.69.

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WorkSafeBC is an independent provincial statutory agency governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the provincial government. The organization serves approximately 2.4 million workers and 238,000 employers throughout British Columbia. In administering the Workers Compensation Act, the organization is accountable to the public through the provincial government.

For media inquiries:

Erica Simpson
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Cell: 778.874.0281

Gillian Burnett
Media Relations, WorkSafeBC
Cell: 778.870.3848