The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consistently ranks the commercial fishing industry as one of the most dangerous of all U.S. industries. The safety and health of individuals who work on commercial fishing ships are often at the mercy of both the weather and a ship's owner.
According to the CDC, from 2000 to 2010 a total of 545 commercial fishermen died while officially on the job. Of these deaths, just over 50 percent "occurred after a vessel disaster.” Additionally, roughly 30 percent were attributed to falls overboard and 10 percent resulted from injuries suffered while aboard a ship.
Commercial fishermen face numerous hazards while working aboard a vessel. While turbulent weather conditions are out of a ship owner's control, how a ship and its equipment are maintained can greatly impact the safety of those onboard. For example, equipment that hasn't been properly maintained or secured could malfunction or come lose and a fisherman could end up being hit or pushed overboard.
A report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health examined the causes of the 165 commercial fishing fatalities that occurred along the United States’ east coast between 2000 and 2009. Based on this investigation, NIOSH issued formal recommendations for how to reduce the number of worker fatalities related to vessel disasters, falls overboard and on-board injuries. In addition to conducting regular equipment maintenance and safety checks; NIOSH also recommended that ship owners install emergency machinery stop devices.
Loved ones who have lost a spouse, parent, child or sibling in a commercial fishing accident would be wise to seek information about the specific cause of death. In cases where equipment and machinery malfunctions contributed to a loved one's death, it’s wise to consult with an attorney who handles maritime and admiralty law matters.
Source: CDC.gov, "Commercial Fishing Safety," 2014
NIOSH.gov, "Fatal Occupational Injuries in the U.S. Commercial Fishing Industry: Risk Factors and Recommendations," 2014