Fishing vessel winches can cause serious injuries and death

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), 10% of the deaths on U.S.-flag commercial fishing vessels resulted from an injury on the vessel.

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) has issued a report this week on the death of the captain of the commercial fishing vessel RONAN ORLA on March 30, 2014. The skipper had been operating the dredge-type fishing vessel single handedly and became entangled in the warping drum of the vessel’s winch. The full report is at this link.

The report stated:

“The skipper died because he was unable to disentangle himself or stop the winch before succumbing to his injuries. The MAIB investigation was unable to determine conclusively the mechanism by which the skipper was pulled onto the rotating winch drum. However, the most likely cause was the snagging of one of the shoulder straps on his bib and brace trousers. The investigation identified several underlying contributory factors; these included:

“• Ronan Orla and its equipment had not been adequately maintained, and its winch was in a dangerously poor condition.

“• It was unsafe to operate Ronan Orla as a scallop dredger single-handedly.

“• The winch had not been fitted with the safety devices required by UK legislation and recommended by the International Maritime Organization, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and industry bodies. Had an emergency stop been fitted, the skipper might have been able to stop the winch; had the winch control lever been designed to return to its stopped position when released, the accident would have been prevented.”.

In February 2015, the MAIB issued Wanderer II casualty report that also made recommendations regarding the serious injury to a commercial fisherman engaged in dredging operations. That report is at this link.

NIOSH developed an emergency stop switch for winches (called an E-stop) which can be retrofitted on existing commercial fishing vessels. “When engaged, it locks the winch in place limiting the severity of entanglement. The technology was licensed to a company in Seattle, WA to produce a commercially-available retrofit kit.  More than a dozen vessels now have an e-stop installed on their winches and winch manufacturers are now making new winches with an e-stop as a standard feature. The development and commercialization of this device was honored with the CDC Director’s Innovation Award in 2008.”

The E-stop is available exclusively at GO2MARINE.COM.

The installation instructions for the E-stop are at this link.

Just as there are emergency brakes on everything from table saws to chain saws – emergency stop switches should be required on all commercial fishing vessels that have winches.


  • Reblogged this on Brittius.


  • Teske, Theodore (Ted) (CDC/NIOSH/OD)

    I am really liking your new blog and the mission you’ve set out on. I wanted to give a little feedback on this post since some of the data related to the NIOSH-developed and licensed E-Stop is a bit out of date.

    The E-Stop is now a standard feature on all new Kolstrand seine winches and Kolstrand is also the vendor for the retrofit kit as well: Two other major seine winch manufacturers in the Northwest now offer E-Stops as standard features on their new winches: JK Fabrication and Marco Global.

    Thank you again for highlighting this critical piece of safety equipment. In addition to the cases you cite from the UK, we’ve seen continued occurrence of these incidents in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico over the past few years. Solutions exist and I thank you for highlighting them to your readers.

    If you want to know more about our ongoing winch safety work, please drop me a line.

    Ted Teske

    Health Communication Specialist
    NIOSH – Western States Division, Spokane
    P: 509.354.8070 | C: 907.268.1137 | | F: 509.354.8099 | @NIOSHFishing | @NIOSHOilandGas

    Have you met Angus? | @livetobesalty |


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