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July 20 to 26 is National Drowning Prevention Week - a time to reinforce the need for safety while working, swimming, boating or playing near water.
Statistics from the Lifesaving Society show that in 2012, 344 Canadians died by drowning, including 17 Nova Scotians. Given that the majority of fishing deaths are drownings, the WCB and our fishing safety partners are also using this week to shine a spotlight on fishing safety.
We know that in order to improve safety in an industry that has long been one of the most dangerous in our province, the culture needs to change. The good news is that we are seeing signs of a fishing safety culture slowly start to emerge. Dumping days have been delayed due to dangerous weather conditions. More fishermen are wearing PFDs. Fishermen and community members come out in large groups to observe and learn safety tips at Man Overboard Demonstrations.
But the strongest signs come from some of the feedback heard firsthand on wharves and in fishing communities. Feedback such as the type we received in this note from Nellie Baker Stevens of Musquodoboit Harbour, NS:
My husband would only wear a PFD (inflatable) when using his aluminum boat for recreational purposes and he only does that because he did get thrown overboard in the past but luckily I was with him.
He resisted the thought of wearing a PFD on his fishing boat as he didn’t believe he needed it as he has fished for many years and didn’t see the need although his crew has been wearing them the last few years. I insisted that it was law that he wear a PFD and he did buy additional ones this year but he didn’t like the inflatable ones and I was thinking he wouldn’t wear it all of the time but only if he thought he would be checked.
After I saw the floater vest at your Overboard Exercise I explained to him that he didn’t have to wear the inflatable PFD but a floater vest without the arms is acceptable and it looked really comfortable.
He did go out and buy this floater vest and he found it quite comfortable and has been wearing it every day.
This morning is the first morning his crew was late and Ron was removing the big buoys off his boat when he fell overboard. I won’t say that the floater vest saved his life but for a man who cannot swim his experience this morning was only swallowing some seawater and a very cold dip into the ocean.
I’m very grateful I attended your Overboard Drill and got the information that helped my husband this morning.