Commercial fishing jobs are plentiful in Alaska and allow fishermen to support their families. However, commercial fishing can be a dangerous occupation. Accidents happen and people are injured and lose their lives because of them.
Sometimes these injuries come about because of bad weather and rough seas. Frequently, they are linked to simple items and pieces of equipment that are standard on every commercial boat.
Knowing what to look for can help with safety. Despite that, even when taking precautions, accidents can occur without warning and leave a worker hospitalized with severe injuries and an uncertain future personally, physically and financially.
Fishing boat winches have caused severe injuries
One of the most rudimentary parts of a fishing boat – the winch – can cause major injuries to workers.
A winch is a device that adjusts ropes on the boat. Boat workers in Alaska and all over the world are familiar with it and its uses. Fishing boats use it for anchors, nets and more. Given how fast and forceful it can be with workers close together when operating it, it causes many accidents with substantial injuries.
Alaska alone had 125 workers suffer serious injuries in winch accidents. These happened over the course of two decades from 2000 to 2020. Some were life-altering with workers losing limbs and having bones crushed. This information came from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.
The winch injuries were reported to the Alaska Fisherman’s Fund which oversees injuries and illnesses suffered by fishermen. It is exceedingly likely that there were many more injuries from winches because the study was limited to injuries that were reported to the fund.
More than 8 in 10 winch injuries happen on salmon fishing vessels. In many, workers’ body parts were caught in the winches or the cables. This commonly affected the arms, hands and wrists. Some workers lost fingers. One lost an arm.
Recommendations to improve safety include better training practices, specifically those who are lacking in experience as they work on fishing boats. More than 50% of the traumatic injuries occurred with workers younger than 30.
After maritime injuries, workers should know the value of professional help
As this information shows, even the most minor and necessary parts of a fishing boat can be dangerous. When considering all the other potential problems that can come up and cause an accident, it can lead to fear and worry as to what can happen.
When a fishing boat worker has been hurt on the job, their family could be left wondering how they will make ends meet. Recovering lost wages can be problematic. Medical expenses can be massive and leave the worker with dwindling savings and a lack of certainty as to when they will recover and what kind of work they will be able to do.