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Fishermen urged to make safety a priority this lobster season

November 29, 2011 – Halifax, NS – As fishermen across South Shore and Southwest Nova Scotia take to the water today for the start of lobster season, the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB) and the Department of Labour and Advanced Education are urging them to stay safe.

“Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the province, particularly in the harsh winter months,” said Stuart MacLean, Acting CEO of the WCB. “We want to remind everyone in the industry to wear proper life vests and check their safety equipment and work procedures to ensure no one gets hurt this season.” 

In 2010, nearly 400 people working in the fishing industry were injured on the job. Of those, 150 were serious injuries that resulted in time lost from work. In the last three years alone, 23 people have died while working in the fishing industry. That is more than a quarter of all workplace fatalities in Nova Scotia during that time. 

While injuries related to weather, conditions at sea and overloaded boats are often serious and tragic, sprains and strains are common and financially costly. These injuries are caused by hazards associated with the way work is designed and carried out such as lifting heavy loads.

The seafood processing sector also had its share of injury, with more than 400 injuries in 2010, including nearly 100 injuries causing time lost from work.

“Fishing is a vital part of our culture in Nova Scotia,” said Marilyn More, Minister of Labour and Advanced Education. “That work has incredible value, contributing millions to our economy every year. It is critical that this work be done safely, to reduce the terrible human and financial toll workplace injury takes in this province.”

Seafood processors and any fishing vessel that is based in Nova Scotia must comply with the province’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Premiums paid by fishing industry employers for workplace injury insurance are among the highest in Nova Scotia. The 2012 rate is $7.85 per $100 of payroll, up from $7.50 in 2011.  That’s well above Nova Scotia’s average assessment rate of $2.65 – a direct result of the number and severity of injuries in the fishing sector.

There are positive signs that the fishing industry is taking action to improve its safety performance. In 2010 the Fisheries Safety Association was established with a mandate of reducing workplace injuries, and over time, workers’ compensation rates.

The WCB partnered with the Fisheries Safety Association and Advanced Labour and Education to produce an advertising campaign featuring hard-hitting safety messages such as “What’s harder? Telling your crew to put on lifejackets or telling their families they aren’t coming home?”

“We are making progress establishing a safety culture in Nova Scotia, and by working together we can extend that progress to the fishing sector,” said MacLean. “The fishing industry needs a clear focus on safety. Fishermen have faced dangerous conditions for too long.”

About the Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia: The Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia (WCB) is committed to keeping Nova Scotians safe and secure from workplace injury. The WCB provides workplace injury insurance for more than 18,000 employers, representing about 300,000 workers across the province. The WCB sets the standard for workplace injury insurance by informing and inspiring Nova Scotians in the prevention of workplace injury. If an injury occurs, the WCB supports those whose lives it touches by championing a timely return to safe and healthy work.

About Nova Scotia Labour and Advanced Education:  The Department of Labour and Advanced Education works to provide fairness, safety and prosperity for all Nova Scotians by helping them live, learn and work to their highest potential. The department works to protect the public and maintain and grow a safe and prosperous workforce in Nova Scotia with a strong focus on safety, skill development, regulation, education and building partnerships.

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For more information, please contact:

Julie Trites
Communications Advisor
Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia
902.491.8103
julie.trites@wcb.gov.ns.ca

Kevin Finch
Communications Advisor
Department of Labour and Advanced Education
902-424-0847
finchkh@gov.ns.ca