More fishermen on P.E.I. plan to wear personal flotation devices

Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. said it's been getting more calls from fishermen wondering where to buy the right life vest and how to encourage others to wear them.

WCB of P.E.I. planning awareness campaign about the rules around PFDs

Newer flotation devices come in many shapes and sizes and can be comfortable for use on a fishing vessel. (CBC)

Some Prince Edward Island fishermen say after the tragic deaths of Glen DesRoches and Moe Getson, they plan to start wearing life vests on board their boats. 

Earl Gavin said he plans to wear a personal flotation device when he goes out on the water.

"It'd be no harm to have life jackets on," Gavin said. "I don't now wear one aboard the boat. But we should."

The Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. said it's been getting more calls from fishermen wondering where to buy the right life vest and how to encourage others to wear them. 

Danny Miller, with the WCB of P.E.I., says it's been hearing from fishermen who want to know more about personal flotation devices. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

'Change the culture'

The Transportation Safety Board is still working on its investigation into what caused DesRoches' boat to capsize off North Cape. 

It confirmed to CBC Monday that neither DesRoches nor Getson were wearing a life vest. 

Danny Miller, director of occupational health and safety with the Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I., said it's mandatory for fishermen to wear a personal flotation device while out on the water.

The Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I. is planning an educational campaign to get more fishermen aware of the current laws about wearing personal safety devices. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

That law's largely not understood, Miller said, and is difficult to enforce.

"Fishermen have not been wearing their PFDs, so it's going to take some time to change the culture," said Miller. 

"Part of it is probably just the attitude, 'That's not going to happen to me'. And number two, the big complaint we hear from people is that PFDs are uncomfortable to work in."

Miller said the latter is a myth the WCB is trying to combat.

'It only takes a few seconds'

WCB board members have gone to fishermen's meetings and the wharf over the past year to show off newer life vests which are more comfortable and less cumbersome, Miller said.

Ricky Brennan, who fishes out of Seacow Pond, says he sees the benefits of wearing a PFD.

Danny Miller, with the Workers Compensation Board of P.E.I., said enforcement around fishermen wearing personal flotation devices can be difficult. (CBC)

"You always think after a tragedy happens, what can you do to prevent it?  It's hard to say how they could've prevented it," he said.

"But safety goes a long way.  And it only takes a few seconds for anything to happen, to fall over.  But once you go over, these little vests, they inflate right quick, and you stand a chance, a very good chance."

Miller says that change in attitude is a positive sign, but there's still a long way to go. 

Fisherman Ricky Brennan says that he and other fishermen he's spoken with plan to wear life jackets more often. (CBC)

"It could be the difference between surviving some kind of incident on the water, and not," Miller said.

"We're hoping over time, fishermen agree to that principle, and they're wearing it because it's the right thing to do, and the safe thing to do, and not so much that someone's watching."

They are also planning a formal campaign to educate fishermen about the importance of wearing life vests similar to one Nova Scotia's had in place for a couple of years.

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