Alabama residents may know that commercial fishermen have the highest fatality rate of any job in the United States. Most of these deaths occur in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2010, there were 116 deaths for every 100,000 workers, and there were more than 500 wrongful death from 2000 to 2009. Sinking fishing vessels are the primary cause of these deaths. Approximately 33 percent of the deaths occurred when a person fell overboard. Of the remaining deaths, a large percentage were the result of entanglement with machinery on board the ship, such as the deck winches.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reports three winch-related injuries during each year of the nine year span studies. This number may be inaccurate because researchers believe that not all injuries were reported.
Shrimp trawling requires that a net be draped over the side of the ship. These nets are pulled in with winches, and a misplaced arm or a piece of loose clothing could get caught in the winch, seriously injuring the fisherman. Even non-fatal injuries may cause serious harm. Approximately half of the injuries that do not result in death end in one or more amputations. The injuries occur primarily on the victim's arms or hands.
Workers' compensation laws exist not only to protect workers but also their families. When a worker is killed in work-related incident, the victim's family may be able to recover on behalf of the deceased victim. Even where an injury occurs at sea, the laws of the state where the ship was based will apply. Anyone who has lost a loved one in an incident that occurred on a commercial fishing ship may benefit from speaking with an experienced attorney about the possibility of filing a wrongful death claim.
Source: Alabama Public Radio, "Shrimp Trawling Comes with Big Risks," Scott Hensley, March 7, 2013