Working on a California commercial fishing vessel involves a high level of risk, and today’s commercial fishing professionals hold one of the nation’s most dangerous jobs. Maritime workers face injury hazards relating to slip-and-fall accidents, amputations, burns, head injuries and more. They also face many work-related fatality risks, some of which contribute to worker deaths more than others.
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the second-most-common cause of death for maritime workers and commercial fishermen is falling overboard the watercraft.
How often falls overboard occur
Research shows that 210 commercial fishing professionals lost their lives on the job after falling overboard between 2000 and 2014. Not one of the workers who died in a fall overboard had a personal flotation device on at the time of their death. Unfortunately, there were not any witnesses when more than half, or 53%, of these falls occurred. So, it is not always clear exactly what causes a worker to fall in the first place
How to survive a fall overboard
The most effective way maritime workers might prevent death caused by falling overboard is to wear personal flotation devices while working aboard a vessel. Many believe that hypothermia is what kills maritime workers after falling overboard, but this is not the case. Instead, most workers who die after falling overboard do so as a result of cold incapacitation, which occurs when the water is too cold for someone to swim well.
When a seaman falls overboard of otherwise suffers a fatality at sea, that worker’s family members may be able to file a wrongful death claim under the terms of the Jones Act.