The Tragic Impact of Fishing Boat Machinery Revealed

20 January 2016, at 12:00am

UK - The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has launched a campaign to keep commercial fishermen safe, with figures showing 88 people were injured or killed in deck machinery incidents on fishing vessels in UK waters over the past five years.

As well as encouraging skippers and vessel owners to apply for funding through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to help replace older, more dangerous deck machinery on their boats, the RNLI is encouraging fishermen to take extra care on deck – with a new safety video being released in partnership with Seafish.

Data released by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) shows that four fishermen tragically lost their lives in deck machinery incidents from 1 January 2011 to 10 November 2015, with a further 84 injuries being suffered by commercial fishing crew.

Jamie Griffin, former fisherman from the Isle of Man, was the victim of a serious deck machinery incident in 2013 when he lost his arm after becoming tangled in a winch while operating the drum end.

Jamie recalls: "The day of the accident was just like any other day’s fishing, until somehow I got tangled in the winch. I tried to free myself, but I couldn’t. As a result, I lost my left arm and seriously damaged the other. I also suffered eight broken ribs and a punctured lung.

"Deck machinery can be really dangerous, especially older equipment. Extra care should be taken while operating it and I’d encourage all fishermen to watch this new safety film."

Sheryll Murray, MP for South East Cornwall, is supporting the campaign, as her late husband Neil was a commercial fisherman. In 2011, he tragically lost his life when a toggle from his oilskin jacket got caught in deck machinery on board his boat Our Boy Andrew, drawing him into the net drum.

Sheryll comments: "My husband was a commercial fisherman for over 25 years. If his boat had an emergency stop button in a better location on the deck, it could have saved his life.

"I don’t want to see other fishermen’s children suffer like my children have. That’s why I’m supporting this campaign and encouraging fishermen to take action to make sure their vessels are as safe as possible."

Worryingly, incidents of deck machinery are believed to be significantly underreported, meaning it is highly likely that many more than 84 injuries have been suffered over the past five years.

Steve Clinch, Chief Inspector of Marine Accidents at the MAIB, says: "Year after year, the MAIB receives numerous reports of fishermen suffering crush injuries, amputations and even death as the result of accidents involving deck machinery on fishing boats.

"Sadly, in almost all cases, accidents which occur when operating deck machinery are avoidable if fishermen undertake some basic training and adopt safe working practices. I would therefore recommend this awareness video to all fishermen, but especially skippers.

"Any fishermen going to sea should always take the time to consider carefully the potential risks of any hauling or shooting operation and take all necessary measures to protect everyone on board. Too many limbs, livelihoods and lives have been lost because fishermen have taken unnecessary risks."

Frankie Horne, skipper and RNLI Fishing Safety Manager, says: "All fishing crew should be fully trained on the equipment they are using and regular risk assessments should be carried out to spot hazards and dangers on deck.

"This new safety video is approximately six minutes long and features interviews with a range of fishing safety experts and victims of deck machinery accidents.’

Jamie Griffin and Sheryll Murray appear in the new film, as well as Frankie Horne and Tony Wynn from the Health and Safety Laboratory.

The EMFF grant funding to replace older, more dangerous deck machinery is available for fishermen to apply for in England and Scotland from today (Monday 18 January), with funding due to become available for fishermen in Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland soon.

In 2015, RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Ireland launched to 470 commercial fishing-related incidents, rescuing 751 people and saving 9 lives.

To find out more about how to apply for an EMFF grant, visit