Ted Teske speaks at the Live to be Salty forum. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
If you’re a fisherman and you fall overboard unnoticed, there’s one thing that might save your life: a personal flotation device. Or, a life-vest.
That’s the idea that Ted Teske proposed at the Live to be Salty forum this Thursday at ComFish. Teske is the Health Communication Specialist for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
He says there are a lot of misconceptions about falling overboard and cold water immersion.
“By presenting the data at conferences like this or through our websites and our programs, we hope to raise a little awareness, and then give the fishermen the tools so that they can go solve the problems themselves,” says Teske.
According to NIOSH statistics, 54 deaths resulted from a man falling overboard between 2000 and 2014. Most of the fatalities occurred on salmon fishing vessels and in the month of July.
Even if you’re a good swimmer, a person can be in the water for two minutes before the cold shock response, which includes hyperventilation and the gasp reflex. It takes between 5 to 30 minutes before the blood stops flowing to your arms and legs and you lose coordination, but between 90 and 180 minutes to reach cardiac arrest. A personal flotation device, or PFD, helps keep a person afloat long enough for someone to find them.
Teske says that some fisherman are worried about uncomfortable, hot vests that snag on equipment. He stresses that there are different types of PFDs that suit different types of fishermen.
“That’s part of our education is showing them the whole variety of things that are out there,” Teske says. “Not just your standard foam vests, but also thinner, inflatable styles. Foam styles that find under the rain jackets, integrated gear where they actually build the foam into the bibs, so that it’s not just another piece of gear, but something you’re wearing everyday anyway.”
One of the campaigns NIOSH runs is called Live to be Salty .
It features an older fisherman character named Angus Jverson. Posters show him on fishing vessels wearing a personal flotation device and full gear, sometimes standing with his hands on his hips or holding rope.
He is usually photographed with a tooth-pick in his mouth, grinning or in mid-speech, and white text quotes him saying “You may learn to think like a fish, but you’ll never breathe like one.” Or “You say PFDs are uncomfortable. Never met a guy who chose fishing because it was comfortable.”
NIOSH character, Angus Jverson. Via livetobesalty.org
That’s just one way NIOSH has tried reaching out to members of the fishing industry. Teske says that there will be a raffle to provide the winner’s whole crew with their choice of PFD. You can enter by going to the NIOSH booth at ComFish in the Kodiak Convention Center. The winning name will be drawn on Saturday.