FishSAFE is a partnership between the fishing industry and government agencies aimed at improving the safety performance of the New Zealand commercial fishing sector - in other words, aimed at reducing the number and severity of injuries to fishermen. This industry-led partnership was formed in 2004, and followed on from a study into the causes of work-related fatalities within the commercial fishing industry carried out in 2000 by Maritime New Zealand. That study highlighted the high fatality rate within the commercial fishing industry and in 2001 led to the creation of FISHGroup - the Fishing Industry Safety and Health Advisory Group. FISHGroup was an industry-led forum charged with identifying the causes of work-related near misses, injuries, and fatalities in the fishing industry. It brought together fishermen, industry stakeholder groups, and government agencies to develop strategies to improve the safety performance of the New Zealand commercial fishing industry. That work in was successfully completed in 2003 and a final report was produced which made a series of 46 recommendations in the areas of communications and safety awareness, streamlining of compliance, training and development, human factors, and design, construction and equipment. The key recommendation among those was the formation of an on-going industry-led body that focused on the promotion of safety within the fishing industry. The aim was to improve safety outcomes within the commercial fishing industry by developing and supporting industry and government partnerships, and facilitating industry led initiatives. This body was given oversight of the implementation of the recommendations contained in the final report, and became known as FishSAFE. Membership of FishSAFE is open to individual fishermen and representative industry organisations, as well as government agencies with an interest in health and safety in the commercial fishing industry. The current Chairman of FishSAFE is Peter Dawson from the NZ Federation of Commercial Fishermen. The active membership includes representatives from the following organisations:
The first priority for FishSAFE has been the development of Guidelines for Health and Safety on Board Small Commercial Fishing Vessels, and the associated injury prevention training. The target audience is the owners, operators and crew of fishing vessels less than 24 metres in length. These vessels make up the large majority of the New Zealand fishing fleet in terms of both vessel numbers and people employed, and are a high-risk area when it comes to the number and severity of injuries. FishSAFE has taken the view that the New Zealand deepwater fleet generally has already had to address these issues, and had been able to devote the necessary time and expertise to respond to both the application of the Health and Safety in Employment Act to their operations, and the opportunity to access ACC levy discount schemes for large employers. Therefore it was appropriate to develop a similar response and opportunity for the owner/operators and crew of smaller vessels, where they frequently have to do everything themselves without either the time or specialist knowledge to meet their requirements. The Guidelines have been developed with past and present fishermen leading the process, working together with industry and government representatives. They represent the combined wisdom of many years industry experience in identifying the common problems and risks that can arise fishing from smaller vessels, and supply some straightforward responses to those problems and risks. The Guidelines for Health and Safety on Board Small Commercial Fishing Vessels are the product of a concerted effort to provide best practice guidelines aimed at reducing accident and injury rates amongst the inshore fishing fleet. They are intended to give a useful and practical tool for everyone involved in the operation of smaller fishing vessels, helping crew to work safely and to identify hazards as well as allowing skippers and owners to meet their obligations under Health and Safety legislation and Maritime Rules.