University Study Finds Ways to Change Processing and Handling to Reduce Commercial Fishing Injuries

Those who work in the commercial fishing industry in Washington will be pleased to learn of a study conducted at Oregon State University that revealed potential changes in the fishing industry that would reduce injuries while handling frozen fish. Almost half of the injuries on commercial freezer-trawlers and nearly a quarter of injuries on freezer-longliner vessels are caused by handling the frozen fish, but they can potentially be identified and minimized by using the research methods used in the study. A large number of the injuries occur in the factory and freezer holds, and common injuries typically occur while on deck with the fishing gear. The authors of the study acknowledge that different types of commercial fishing involve different processes and different risks of injury, but they maintain that data collection and analysis can lead to pinpointing and greatly reducing the injuries and fatalities that occur on commercial fishing vessels.

Often it may seem that dangers inherent to the commercial fishing and crabbing profession are things to accept when one chooses to work in this industry. It is important as a commercial fisherman to know the benefits and remedies you are entitled to under the law. If an injury occurs during a voyage, a fisherman should receive maintenance and cure, which are both long-standing remedies provided to fishermen under maritime law. Maintenance is given when the vessel owners provide the fisherman with the daily expenses agreed to in the employment contract. This is a daily stipend for the food and board the worker would have received while onboard the ship. Cure is the money paid for medical expenses like doctor visit fees and physical therapy.

If a boat's design or upkeep lends to the injury, the boat may be unseaworthy. If a vessel is deemed unseaworthy, a vessel owner's ability to claim an exoneration or limitation of liability under the Limitation of Liability Act is removed. Vessels should be made of sound structure and have properly functioning mechanical systems that ensure safe sailing for the crew. A seaworthy vessel provides properly stored equipment, is an evenly weighted ship that's not over the statutorily mandated weight, has well-kept interiors, and has enough life jackets and boats for all onboard. The question of whether or not a vessel is seaworthy has been repeatedly asked in maritime law. As industry practices improve, the expectations of what is safe sailing change with the technology, and it is greatly important to have experienced counsel at your side to make that argument when a preventable injury or death occurs during a commercial fishing voyage.

The Washington commercial fishing attorneys Gordon Webb and John Merriam understand the frustration and challenges fishermen and their families face when trying to obtain the benefits they're due after an injury. With a combined 50 years of experience in maritime law, they are here to aggressively litigate your claim and help you pursue the damages you deserve. For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office today at 877.800.1007.

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