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Newfoundland and Labrador to Enter New Era in Fishing Industry Safety
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fisheries and Aquaculture
December 7, 2010

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the provincial Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (the Commission) are providing $1 million in funding over three years toward the establishment of a Fish Harvesting Safety Association and a Fish Processing Sector Safety Council. This initiative will be carried out in collaboration with the fishing industry with the intent to make these safety organizations self-sustaining within the next three years.

"These organizations will help to improve safety in one of the most dangerous industries in the world," said the Honourable Clyde Jackman, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. "One life lost at sea is too many. Our goal is a fishing industry that is as safe as it can possibly be. We all need to be doing everything we can to ensure that fish harvesters are coming home to their families and that plant workers have a safe work environment. It is very encouraging that the fishing industry is coming together with the Provincial Government and the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission to address health and safety issues."

There have been 42 deaths related to the fishing industry since 1999 and 77 vessels have been lost at sea. The lost-time incident rate in the fish harvesting sector is 26 per cent higher than the provincial rate and has risen for the last three years. The lost-time incident rate in the fish processing sector is 63 per cent higher than the provincial rate.

"The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission is committed to developing programs that improve health and safety in high risk industries such as the fishing industry," said Leslie Galway, CEO of the Commission. "Safety councils and associations are a proven method of reducing injuries and saving lives. We are pleased to be able to bring together industry experts to work on health and safety initiatives that will improve safety across the fishing industry."

The concept of a fishing industry safety organization has been discussed by the industry and its stakeholders for a number of years. Following its 2006 statutory review, the Commission was asked to assist with the development and coordination of a fishing industry safety council organization. A key issue raised during the Fishing Industry Renewal consultations was occupational health and safety. A fishing industry safety council was identified as a Provincial Government initiative in the Fishing Industry Renewal Strategy that was announced in 2007.

The Provincial Government and the Commission have been in discussions with several industry and governmental groups regarding options for forming safety organizations for the fishing industry. These groups include the Fish, Food and Allied Workers, Association of Seafood Producers, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canadian Coast Guard, Memorial University’s Fisheries and Marine Institute, the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, the Professional Fish Harvesters Certification Board and Safety Net.

"The formation of the safety association and safety sector council is an important step forward," said Minister Jackman. "They will also assist in making the industry more competitive and attractive to younger workers. We look forward to our continued collaboration with the Commission and industry representatives on fishing industry occupational health and safety."

The Provincial Government has been working closely with the Commission and other partners to address the important issue of fishing industry workplace health and safety. Recently, a number of projects to improve health and safety have been carried out, including safety workshops, development of an e-simulator for vessel stability training and most recently the release of the fishing industry safety video entitled Getting Back Home.

  • Video of news conference
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Establishment of Fishing Industry Safety Organizations to Improve Safety

Fish Harvesting Safety Association

The Fish Harvesting Safety Association will be established in collaboration with the fishing industry. The industry will work with the Provincial Government and Workplace, Health Safety and Compensation Commission (the Commission) to identify the best organizational structure to meet the goal of improving health and safety in the sector.

The association will have broad representation from fish harvesters, deckhands, industry associations, government agencies engaged in safety activities, and academic institutions involved in safety research and training. It will provide advice to the provincial and federal levels of government on health and safety issues in the fishing industry; promote best practices for safety onboard fishing vessels through initiatives such as workshops, training and multimedia resources; and support research on fishing industry safety. The research will address issues such as safety in the harvesting of new and underutilized species, and safe harvesting in remote areas.
According to the International Labour Organization, approximately 24,000 fish harvesters worldwide lose their lives annually while carrying out their work. Fish harvesting is a dangerous profession and this is particularly the case in the Newfoundland and Labrador fishing industry. There are extreme weather conditions in the waters off this province and there has been a trend toward fishing further and further offshore.

In 2009, the lost-time incident rate for the fish harvesting sector was 2.4 injuries per 100 workers, which is 26 per cent higher than the provincial lost-time incident rate. The total number of fish harvesting claims has increased each year for the last five years and the total cost of those claims has increased 24 per cent. There have been 193 fatalities in the fishing harvesting sector since 1979.

Fish Processing Sector Safety Council

The concept of industry sector safety councils emerged in the 1990s to promote health and safety in the workplace. The Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (the Commission) established the province’s first safety council in 1997.

Sector councils were recommended again in the Commission’s Provincial Accident Prevention Strategy in 2001 by both employer and labour groups. They were also recommended during the last two statutory review reports to the Provincial Government.

Health and safety is the first priority of sector safety councils. They are non-profit organizations, developed in collaboration with industry and committed to providing effective and affordable safety training and related services.

In addition to the support of the Commission, the council will also receive support from the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour and Newfoundland and Labrador Employers Council advisors, the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Government Services and other government departments as required. It will provide occupational health and safety training and be flexible in responding to the needs of industry.

There are a number of ergonomic and health issues associated with working in seafood processing plants. In 2009, the lost-time incident rate in the seafood processing sector was 3.1 injuries per 100 workers, which is 63 per cent higher than the provincial average of 1.9. The assessment rate for the sector is the third highest of all sectors.  

2010 12 07                                                    10:35 a.m.

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