Lifejackets ‘Should be law’ says marine investigators

3 accidents which killed 4 men recently have lead marine investigators to plead that having life jackets on trawlers should be law and should be a priority to keep fishermen safer.

Fishing in the uk is a hazardous workplace

Survival “measured in minutes”

The Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) is dedicated to investigating incidents involving UK vessels at home and abroad. In the last year the branch has looked into the deaths of 9 fishermen, 4 of which were concluded recently with publications of reports giving the MAIB’s verdict on the incidents surrounding the deaths.

The 4 deaths in question involved 2 Scottish fishermen (Craig Reid, 25 and Gerard Giles, 42) as well as 2 English fishermen (Gareth and Daniel Willington, 59 and 32). Of the 4 people killed, 3 are known to have not been wearing a lifejacket. The fourth is uncertain due to one body still being missing.

MAIB chief Investigator Steve Clinch told the media “all four might well have survived had they been wearing a lifejacket when they entered the water”. He also said that survival in the harsh, cold waters surrounding the UK could be “measured in minutes unless a lifejacket is being worn”.

Other officials are not entirely convinced, including Safety Officer of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Derek Cardno who said that although the deaths were of course sad, they did not believe lifejackets are ‘the’ answer to deaths in UK seas. He stated “We are not convinced that making the wearing of personal flotation devices a mandatory requirement will make the sole difference that is required. We believe it is much better to focus on education and creating a new mind-set among fishermen”.

UK Fishing, workplace hazard

Steps towards safety

Both spokesmen do have important points from their respective sides about lifejackets and while in the very cold waters of the UK, a lifejacket will not protect you from potentially large waves, currents, storms or the temperature of the water, they give you the best possible chance to survive by taking away the strain from treading water just to stay afloat.

UK fishermen have to put up with some particularly harsh conditions and rough waters, often risking being thrown overboard in bad conditions. While icy, cold water can kill by reducing body temperature, a lifejacket would give the best chance to swim to safety if thrown overboard.

Given the nature of fishing, there are already significant risks of injury while working on board a vessel other than falling overboard. An accident on board a fishing ship can have the potential to be much more than a slip and trip which causes a sprain or bruising, and as such would require much more time and effort to resolve legally.

Life jackets could reduce workplace injuries at sea

Legal stances

Fishermen who are under employment have the very same workers rights for injuries caused as any other employee. However, if an injury occurs when safety procedures on the vessel were not followed it does become difficult to make a case in favour of the person injured.

If all safety protocols are however followed and injury still occurs then you can get legal backing and gain compensation for the injuries caused, no matter how serious. If this is a situation you have been involved in, you can speak to one of our advisers by calling 01695 722 222 for free, impartial, conscientious advice on how best to proceed.

If you would prefer to get in touch online we also have a contact form where you can let us know about the incident. From there we can call back at your convenience to let you know what can be done.


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  1. Royal Navy;;
  2. Adrian S Pye;;
  3. Steve Fareham,;
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