Fishing Safety Success Stories

Title translated into English

Fishing Safety Success Stories

Film: Duration in minutes

22:01 (for all four videos) minutes


The NIOSH Fishing Safety Success Stories are a growing collection of short videos highlighting the successful implementation of workplace safety recommendations with commercial fishermen to prevent traumatic injuries like fatal falls overboard or machinery entanglement. Each video is 4-6 minutes long and features a commercial fishermen and their crew recounting an incident where a near miss occurred and how the safety equipment or safe practice prevented the injury. The interview footage is interspersed with b-roll emphasizing critical events or components in the story. All four videos to date have been professionally produced by a production company working under contract for the NIOSH. These videos are then uploaded on YouTube and published on the NIOSH website for dissemination.


The main message of this series is that adopting safety recommendations and safe work practices aboard commercial fishing vessels can prevent types of long-standing injuries and fatalities among these workers. So far the two main messages have been that personal flotation devices can prevent fall overboard fatalities in a variety of fisheries and that using emergency stop systems on deck machinery can prevent traumatic entanglement injuries.


Commercial fishing is regularly one of the most hazardous industries in the United States with a fatality rate many times that of the national average. Since 1991, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has had a commercial fishing safety research program working to determine the causes of fatal injuries in this industry and provide targeted interventions to address common causes of fatal injury. This ongoing surveillance and intervention work has shown that falls overboard are the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide and of the 227 fatal falls from 2000-2016, none of the victims were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) when they drowned. Additionally, on-board injuries, including contact injuries with deck machinery, are the third leading cause of fatalities among these workers.

This fatality data is collected using the Commercial Fishing Incident Database (CFID) and provides researchers a comprehensive look at causes of fatal injuries nationwide. What it doesn’t collect are near miss incidents or non-fatal falls overboard. These events are not required to be reported if there were no injuries sustained by the fisherman and so instances of survival are often anecdotal or appear not in databases, but in regional newspapers and trade publications.

Health Communication staff at the NIOSH Western States Division decided to use these survival stories to highlight the effectiveness of PFDs at preventing fatalities in fall overboard events and of emergency stops at preventing winch entanglement injuries. They developed a concept for Fishing Safety Success Stories that would highlight fishermen using safe practices or adopting NIOSH recommendations and interventions to prevent fatalities. The stories would be short videos focusing on the story of a fisherman or fishing vessel crew using their own words (and fishing’s rich tradition of story-telling) to describe the event and how their safe choices prevented an injury or fatality on their vessel.

These videos differ from our program’s common outputs in that instead of showing the results of unsafe practices or victims succumbing to the risks of their workplace, these videos highlight the times when things start to go wrong, but hazard mitigation and proper planning result in a prevented injury or fatality. Stories like these help prove the efficacy of NIOSH safety recommendations by using real cases with real fishermen. Fishing has a rich tradition of storytelling and oral history going back centuries and by using fishermen as our narrators we lower barriers to reception of the underlying message. Having the fishermen tell their own story provides validity and authenticity to the message that we as outsiders to that industry may not have. Fishermen are often acutely aware of the risks they face, but overcoming long-standing cultural norms and practices takes a consistent and incremental approach. In an industry comprised mostly of small, owner-operator businesses, decisions to change to safer practices are often up to individual vessel owners and crew. Stories like these personalize the data NIOSH collects and analyzes and provides a relatable spokesman for our safety messages.

Target Group

Commercial Fishermen


2018 Silver Peer Award, Television, Internet, and Video Association of Washington, DC (Education and Training Category, Under $25,000)

Contact details Editor / Production company

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
315 E. Montgomery Avenue, us-99207 Spokane, WA
1-509-354-8070 - 1-509-990-5082