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Health and safety

MAIB issues safety flyer to fishing industry after man overboard investigation

27 July 2022

A safety flyer has been issued to the UK fishing industry highlighting lessons learned from a UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) investigation of a fatal man overboard.

On 2 May 2021, the owner/skipper of the single-handed creel fishing vessel Saint Peter died from the effects of cold water immersion while working creels 1.2 nautical miles east of Torness Point, Scotland. There were no eyewitnesses to the accident, but evidence indicated that the skipper became caught in a bight of back rope while shooting a string of creels and was pulled overboard.

The skipper was wearing an automatic inflation personal flotation device (PFD), which kept his airways clear, but once in the water he had no means to reboard his vessel or send a distress signal. The report found he likely had a fatal heart attack from an existing condition induced from the cold water shock.

A concerned relative and a friend of the skipper searched for Saint Peter from another fishing vessel. They found the vessel stopped and unmanned with a string of creels streaming from its shooting door. They contacted the coastguard and a search and rescue operation was initiated. A coastguard helicopter located and recovered Saint Peter’s unresponsive skipper later that afternoon.

It was one of ten fishing vessel fatalities around the UK coast in 2021 investigated by the MAIB – three of which occurred onboard single-handed vessels.

Safety lessons from the incident included the reminders that:

  • single-handed fishing is deemed to be a high-risk occupation, and fishermen are advised to follow industry guidelines to minimise the chance of being pulled or falling overboard
  • a barrier between the fisherman and the fishing gear during every phase of the fishing process and/or the wearing of a safety line is recommended
  • consider what methods of reboarding the vessel from the water are available
  • emergency measures, such as rigging a man overboard ladder or having an overside tyre
  • arrangement in place, can improve the chances of survival
  • fishermen should wear a PFD at all times as this will help to maintain buoyancy after a fall overboard
  • wearing a Personal Locator Beacon or AIS Man Overboard Beacon that can send a distress signal will improve the chances of survival and rescue
  • adherence to well-prepared risk assessments and realistic safety procedures

Given the existing guidance on the risks of single-handed fishing operations and the MAIB's safety recommendations made in previous recent investigation reports, no further recommendations regarding single-handed fishing were made.


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