Fishing Boat Safety – Avoiding Fatigue
Lack of adequate sleep is an unavoidable part of commercial fishing. This is especially true because of the increased competition in modern times. Since there are fewer fish, openings are getting shorter and shorter, and fishermen are pushing themselves to the limit to fish for as many hours as possible. If you’ll be working long hours, keep these points in mind:
- It takes most people ten to 15 minutes after waking up before they can fully function.
- Sleep deprivation slows reaction time.
- New and complex skills are more seriously affected by lack of sleep than simple, much-practiced tasks.
- Those doing fast-paced work are less likely to be affected by sleep loss than those doing a lot of sitting and waiting. Fishermen generally need more sleep under calm conditions with few fish than when the seas are high and their nets are full.
- The best thing to do if you’re sleep-deprived is to sleep. Between 5-12 hours are usually enough to fully recover – even from several days without sleep.
- Prepare for an opening well ahead of time. Once everything is in order, get a good night’s sleep.
- Rotate jobs. Everyone should take turns doing the boring tasks and the more interesting ones. This not only helps everyone learn, but it also keeps everyone sharp. Inexperienced crew members should be taught the more difficult tasks during slow periods.
- Communicate with the skipper and other crew members constantly. Keeping up a rapport keeps everyone sharp. It’s also important for workers – especially newcomers – to get frequent feedback about the quality of their work.
- Crew members should be awakened at least 15 minutes before they’re needed.
- Humor, games, upbeat music, and light exercise all can increase attentiveness.
- Brushing your teeth, washing your hair, or splashing cold water in your face can help wake you up, and will make you feel better – especially during the early morning hours.
- Work as a team. Maintaining group morale is essential to everyone’s safety.
- Take naps whenever possible, but especially during the 2am to 6am low.
- Eat well. A good breakfast is especially important.
The decision to work on a fishing boat should not be taken lightly. While the payoff can be tremendous, the work and the hours can be superhuman, and the dangers are very real.