The winch: a necessary and dangerous piece of fishing equipment

October 9 2022 | Maritime Law

Among the pieces of equipment that commercial fishermen rely on is a winch. Usually consisting of a rope or cable powered by a motor, it is a tool used to wind in fishing nets as well as let them out. By adjusting a rope’s tension, the winch allows the net to move toward the boat or lets the net go further out into the water. You want to make that catch.

If used properly, it is a crucial equipment for any commercial fishing boat seeking its catch and hauling it in. However, in inexperienced hands, the winch is a potentially dangerous tool that can lead to serious injury and even death.

Potential for fractures and amputations

With fall shrimp season underway in the Gulf region, many shrimpers regularly rely on winches. Not surprisingly, shrimpers are among the commercial fishermen most likely to sustain an injury via a winch entanglement, leading to fractures and amputations of the hands and arms. Such an injury occurs when their limbs become entangled in a winch’s cable.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that between 2000 and 2011, a total of 35 injuries involved winches among Gulf of Mexico shrimp fleets. Eight of those injuries proved fatal. What has the industry and agencies been doing to minimize potential tragedies? Well, NIOSH continues to conduct the testing of safer winches.

In inexperienced and untrained hands, a winch is a potentially dangerous piece of equipment. This is why the owners of fishing fleets must provide their crews with reliable and extensive training in using a winch.

As a commercial fisherman, you already know that you have one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. Please take the necessary care and precautions every time you go offshore in search of a plentiful haul. And make sure you have the right training and equipment provided by your employer.


Back to top