Robert Greenwood, Safety Officer at the NFFO explains why wearing a PFD is vital.
In August 2002, I stood in the sun after completing some routine
maintenance at the Selsey Coastguard station. It was one of those rare fine
summer’s days where the sea was calm, the sun was hot and the afternoon breeze
was just enough and no more. A call came to the station reporting a man calling
for help 200yrds (one Cable) from shore at the Bill of Selsey.
The tide had just turned and was at it’s fastest, now moving west
at around four knots. We made our way to the initial reporter but realised we
would soon be chasing along the shore to try to catch up with the casualty. As
we ran along the shore we were inundated with new information as the man was
shouting for help loudly, although we still hadn’t caught sight of him.
The inshore lifeboat launched and made its way to us, but by the
time they arrived the man was unconscious and had stopped breathing. They
recovered the man and brought him ashore where we continued CPR for 35 minutes
until an ambulance arrived – unfortunately he never recovered. However this was
not the end, as there was another man missing. For him the search continued for
five hours until his body was found by a fishing vessel at the slack tide,
caught up in the anchor of the dinghy they had been in.
The reason for me telling this story is that the first man had
drowned on a hot day with a warm sea in less than 18 minutes from the time of
the accident. He was wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). He was reported
to be a good swimmer and experienced around the sea and its ways – so what
happened? It was later revealed that the CO₂ cylinder in the jacket had
previously fired filling the jacket with Carbon Dioxide, but unfortunately it
was then repacked and a new cylinder wasn’t fitted.
A PFD is more than an item of clothing: it is a piece of equipment
that requires fundamental care and training to use.
It’s vital that all fishermen have a thorough understanding of how
to use their PFDs, including how to replace the cylinder and make sure it is in
good serviceable order.
The Seafish ‘Sea You Home Safe’ campaign is a welcomed campaign to
encourage more fishermen to wear a PFD. Whilst a PFD
won’t save every life it only needs to save one to matter to you.