Fishing boats use deck winches for winding ropes that control the fishing equipment used by fisherman. These winches, however, are dangerous and deadly. Those who have worked on fishing boats may have witnessed the horrible dangers presented by these vital pieces of equipment.
A typical scenario could involve a fisherman's coat that gets caught in the winch. Before he or she has time to react, the coat begins winding around the device. It's easy for a fisherman's neck or back to get broken in such an event as the fisherman's body gets caught in the device. Such an incident could also result in dismemberment and death. However, safety protocols can eliminate these tragedies.
Every deck winch needs an E-Stop button installed
Fishing boat owners can install a device known as an "E-Stop" (emergency stop) on the horn of capstan winches. E-Stops have been available for more than 10 years. Essentially, they're a button that fishermen can hit in the event of entanglements. It results in an immediate stop of the winch, locking it in place.
In many winch injuries, fishermen get wrapped up in the winch and pulled far away from their controls so that they can't stop the device. With the E-Stop, fishermen have the option to stop the machinery from the winch itself.
Fishing boat owners have been slow to install E-Stops
From 2000 to 2014, 16 people died in winch entanglement accidents and many more suffered serious injuries. However, out of approximately 1,500 net-fishing boats in use in Alaska and the Northwest, only 50 to 60 of these vessels were equipped with E-Stops.
The cost of retrofitting an E-Stop is approximately $3,800. Also, the three main manufacturers of fishing seine boats in the Northwest currently equip their boats with E-Stops automatically. Eventually, more boats will have these devices as standard features. In the meantime, the hope is that fishing boat owners will begin to see that the cost of a retrofit is worth the potential lives these devices can save.
Did you get hurt by a deck winch?
If you have been injured in deck winch accident, regardless of the circumstances surrounding your injuries, you might be able to qualify for coverage and receive financial benefits under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law created to protect workers injured at sea. To protect your legal rights and options, contact an experienced Jones Act attorney.