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Why are deck winches so dangerous for commercial fishermen?

On Behalf of | Sep 5, 2020 | Jones Act

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the commercial fishing industry is one of the most dangerous occupations in this country. The fatality rate for those working in the commercial fishing industry is 35 times higher than that of any other average U.S. professional.

CDC statistics show that at least 504 fishermen lost their lives in the U.S. between 2000 and 2009. Just over 50% died during that period due to their boats or vessels sinking. At least 30% died after falling overboard. Another 10% died from injuries they suffered aboard the ship, such as after being entangled in machinery.

Working with deck winches can be particularly dangerous. These injuries don’t tend to be seasonal, nor do they occur more often during the day or night. They can happen at any time. Those injured by winches range in age from their early 20s to mid-70s. The average age of injury victims is 50 years old.

CDC data shows that almost one-quarter of those injured by winches die as a result of their injuries. Those same statistics show that those wounded by deck winch drums tend to have the highest risk of fatality. More than 40% of these injuries are precipitated by a person’s clothing becoming entangled in the winch. Amputation of upper or lower extremities is a real possibility in some of the most extreme cases.

Employers can minimize their workers’ chances of suffering winch injuries by providing their employees with additional safety training. Employers should also recommend that their employees use hydraulic devices whenever possible. It can be helpful if they attach durable passive guards to the main drum to reduce or prevent the risk of entanglement. Boat owners can minimize their workers’ chances of getting hurt by installing welding extensions to the cable guides. They can keep workers away from cables by doing this.

Working as a fisherman is a very grueling job. One of the best things that you can do if you’ve suffered an injury while working with the winch on your employer’s fishing boat here in Manhattan is to consult with an attorney. They can advise you of how New York law allows you to recover compensation when you suffer injuries on the job at sea.