STONINGTON – In an effort to save the lives of fishermen, The Northeast Center is coming up with a new way to get them to wear life vests.
“I’ve had friends pass away – I have had friends be lost and one of them we have never found,” said John Williams, a fisherman, “It’s a good project, it really is.”
These stories are nothing new for fishermen, almost everyone knows someone who has died or had a close call. While those wearing life vests usually survive, The Northeast Center found that 16 percent of fishermen are not using them. Because of those shocking numbers, The Center is reaching out to lobster fishermen in hopes of getting them involved with designing a jacket they would wear.
“What we found was that while most of them are really safety conscious, the PFD just were not fitting within their work environment for quite a few reasons and many of which we are hoping to resolve,” said Rebecca Weil, the Project Coordinator at the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety
“They are trying to find something comfortable, something that fishermen would wear,” said Williams, “They (might) have to reinvent something or find something available that we do not know about.”
Some fishermen fear a life vest can get caught in their gear. Others say they are just too bulky to do their work and others say they simply cost too much.
“Flotation if it was comfortable, then people would wear it. But what’s available isn’t,” he said.
“We’re looking at how we can respond to the many good inputs that they gave us,” said Weil.
According to the law, they only need to have a life jacket on the boat.
“But I wouldn’t wear it while working, it only gets in the way,” said Williams.
But a vest not worn does not help in tragic situations like falling overboard or getting tangled in fishing line.
“Just wearing a PFD will ensure your body is found,” said Julie Sorensen, the Director of The Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety, “Even if you don’t survive, they can at least recover your body, which is so important because otherwise, there isn’t any closure.”
“It’s really all about what lobstermen can tell us and to redesign something that they want.