As of October 16, all commercial fishing vessels that operate or travel beyond three miles offshore will have to have proof of a Coast Guard safety exam.
The dockside safety exams have been available as free, optional exams by the U.S. Coast Guard for more than 15 years, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Bob Fischer. The USCG’s “Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010” makes those safety exams mandatory now.
The safety exams check to see that boats meet all safety requirements by law—Fischer said they are “basically like getting [an inspection] sticker on your car.” Fischer, who conducts safety exams, said he looks to make sure survival suits are on board, flares are not expired, high water alarms work and bilge pumps are operational, and more.
Fischer said requirements have not changed, so fishermen who have kept their boats up-to-date with safety equipment will have no problem. Boats that have a still-valid decal from within the past two years (safety exams are required biannually) will be all set until their current decal is invalid.
According to the website of the Center for Disease Control, which tracks workplace safety, “commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United states.” The same site says that an annual average of 46 deaths occur per 100,000 workers—which may not sound like a lot, except that the annual average of deaths for all other workers in the U.S. is four per 100,000 workers.
Fischer said the goal of these safety exams is to “help fishermen get home safe at night.”
The 2010 Authorization Act may also implement other changes to improve fishing safety, said Fischer, but such changes are still down the line.
Fischer said fishermen should be sure to get an exam and the decal before October 16. “The patrols will be out,” he said.
To schedule a dockside exam, or for more information, Senior Chief Bob Fischer can be reached at 338-6285.