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Falls overboard can lead to drowning, so focus on crew safety

Commercial fishermen along the Louisiana coast confront mortality whenever they embark on a day’s work in the Gulf of Mexico. The fear of drowning, though, usually does not arise among many of them, especially the fishermen who choose not to wear life jackets. But neglecting that last detail can prove to be a fatal mistake.

Nationwide, man overboard fatalities accounted for the second most deaths among commercial fishermen between 2000 and 2014. During that 15-year period, a total of 210 fishermen died due to fatal falls overboard that led to drowning. Many of these accidents were attributed to people losing their balance as well as being knocked over or entangled in gear. The key factor to remember: None of the victims wore a life jacket or personal flotation device.

Wear a life jacket, enroll in training courses

Between 2010 and 2014, a total of 13 fishermen drowned in accidents in the Gulf of Mexico. This accounted for nearly 27% of industry’s 49 fatalities in the region. The shrimping fleet had the most such fatalities with six, followed by the snapper/grouper fleet with three and the oyster fleet with two. The two remaining drownings occurred among other fleets such as crawfish, other shellfish and mullet.

In the commercial fishing industry, danger can happen in seconds whether you are a novice or experienced fishermen. Here are some things to do to minimize the threat of drowning:

  • Wear a personal flotation device. It can prevent a tragedy.
  • Enroll in safety survival training courses that help you understand what to do in falling overboard scenarios.
  • Make sure your boat has effective recovery devices and ladders.
  • Conduct monthly drills in man-overboard scenarios.
  • If you fall overboard, stay focused and remain calm. Because the water can be cold, hypothermia is a possible. To maintain your warmth, try to stay in the fetal position or sometimes known as the heat escape lessening position (HELP).

Remember, there’s always a chance you might not get out of the water. But do your best not to become a statistic.