While Nova Scotia mourns six fishermen who went missing on December 15, life jackets are still optional on the boats of their New Brunswick counterparts. WorkSafeNB tries to impose them, with difficulty.
“The Occupational Health and Safety Act has not yet been amended to reflect our recommendation,” communications director Florence Flower said by email.
She only notes that the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labor, the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs have discussed it.
WorkSafeNB says New Brunswick is the only province that does not have authority over the fishing industry when it comes to health and safety. That is why she wants to specifically designate commercial fishing vessels as workplaces.
According to the Law, “workplace” for the moment means a building, a work, a room, an aquatic environment or a land where work is carried out by one or more employees and includes a site, a mine, a ferry, a train and any vehicle likely to be used by an employee.
“WorkSafeNB believes that all workers deserve a safe and healthy workplace, whether on land or at sea,” says Flower.
His agency also wants to change regulations to require the wearing of life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) on board commercial fishing vessels. This equipment should also be certified by Transport Canada.
“The fishing industry will also have access to WorkSafeNB’s prevention resources, including tips and application tools,” Flower promises.
Chat for 15 years
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) urged New Brunswick to require PFDs to be worn on all commercial fishing vessels in July 2017. It was responding to the deaths of two fishermen the previous year , who were not wearing them when their vessel capsized.
“Over the past 15 years, the authorities in this province have made several attempts to fill the gap in occupational health and safety regulations in the commercial fishing sector,” noted the BSTC in 2016. However, in general, those involved in the sector do not wish to adopt additional health and safety measures. ”
The Maritime Fishermen’s Union (UPM) did not respond to Acadie Nouvelle due to the holiday break. Fishermen, however, refused to speak because of the nature of the subject.
“If WorkSafeNB forces us to wear a life jacket, well we will have to wear one, we will have no choice, says Patrick Landry. But most fishermen won’t wear them … Well, that’s hard to say. The younger ones may follow the rules, but the older ones… Ah! They have a tough head! ”
Maintain the equipment
The 30-something explains that his experienced counterparts do not believe in the virtues of the life jacket. He says that he himself finds his activity more difficult to do with this equipment, which would sometimes catch on hatches and cables, for example.
He noticed, however, that many fishermen were unable to swim.
Landry further emphasizes the importance of maintaining safety equipment once purchased. He notices that many captains forget to renew the automatic triggers on their inflatable vests after their expiration date, for example.
In fact, while most fishing boats in Nova Scotia have protective equipment, it is sometimes neglected, according to comments that the Fisheries Safety Association of that province made to Radio-Canada.
There were 110 fatalities related to accidents on or aboard fishing vessels from 2009 to 2019 in Canada. That number was 154 from 1999 to 2010, according to figures from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).
The job of a fisherman is 14 times more deadly than that of a police officer, according to WorkSafeNB.
New Brunswick’s fishing industry was made up of about 6,600 fishermen who worked aboard 1,800 boats in 2012, according to the BSTC.