Between 2000 and 2014, overboard falls were the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen in the United States. Of the 210 who died from falling overboard, not one of the victims was wearing a PFD (Personal Flotation Device). What was the leading cause of death among commercial fishermen? Vessel disasters.
According to the CDC, there are no laws that require commercial fishermen wear PFDs. However, USCG regulations [46 CFR 28.110] require that all commercial fishing vessels carry at least one USCG approved PFD or immersion suit of proper size and in good working order for each person on board the vessel. (See our post Overdue F/V Stormie B Crewmember Rescued — September 7, 2021)
Research has shown that the likelihood of surviving an overboard fall is five times greater if a lifejacket or PFD is worn. In a recent survey regarding PFD usage, 16% of respondents said they never wear a PFD while working on deck. Most respondents acknowledged that this safety device is effective at preventing overboard fatalities, yet they were still reluctant about donning this crucial piece of protective gear. Just a few of the reasons offered by crew members: