Giving safety a competitive advantage

First published in Landings, November, 2016.

Falls overboard are the leading cause of death in the northeast lobster fishery, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies, and could largely be prevented with the regular use of personal flotation devices (PFDs).

In response to this problem, a safety project is being launched by the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety: Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (NEC), in conjunction with Fishing Partnership Support Services (FPSS) in Massachusetts.

Lobstermen from Maine and Massachusetts will be asked to try out existing, commercially available PFDs and to share what they like or don’t like about these designs. This information will be used to adjust existing designs whenever possible, then lobstermen will be given opportunities to try out these improved designs. A similar study was done with Alaskan fishermen, and one of the major takeaways from that study is that PFD design needs vary from fishery to fishery and from region to region. So the insights and experiences of lobstermen are very important.

Our goal is to give lobstermen the opportunity to offer input on what does or does not work for them regarding PFDs. By giving lobstermen a primary role in the research process, we hope to develop safety solutions that address barriers to PFD use and to develop solutions that make safety cost-effective and easy. This research is not regulatory; the research is designed to support lobstermen in staying alive while fishing.

Look for us as we come to the docks, or when we call you for input!

If you have questions regarding this project, please contact Julie Sorensen at or at (607) 547-6023, ext.2210.