Chapter 3: Safety: Skills, Attitudes, Facts, and Equipment
Charles R. Berry, Jr., Don Dennerline, and Roger Rulifson
This is the most important chapter in this book. Though safety lacks the glamour of electrofishing, the allure of determining age and growth, or the prestige of calculating statistics, the information in this chapter could change or even save your life. Whereas the consequence of incorrectly aging a fish, deploying a net, or estimating the abundance of a population may lead to an incorrect management decision or damaged ego, ignoring the concepts in this chapter could result in serious injury or death to you or someone with whom you work. Additionally, in today’s litigious society, you, your coworkers, your boss, and your agency or university could all be held liable in a personal injury or death lawsuit that could take years to resolve.
Virtually each and every fisheries job poses some hazard. Potential hazards, though quite different, exist whether you are operating a jet-drive boat in a remote Alaskan river (e.g., hypothermia and bears), conducting an aerial telemetry survey over a Florida swamp (e.g., hyperthermia and aircraft malfunction), or processing preserved samples in a laboratory (e.g., chemical burns and respiratory irritants). Although some situations are obviously more hazardous than are others, fisheries workers should approach all tasks with an attitude toward and awareness of safety.
Some of our colleagues are hurt or killed each year while doing their jobs. A disheartening fact is that most accidents could be avoided if proper safety precautions were in place and followed. Consequently, the overall goal of this chapter is simply to minimize injury and the loss of life and property because of avoidable, unsafe acts. The specific objectives of this chapter are to convey the importance of safety and safe work practices, identify the roles of employees and employers to ensure a safe work place, introduce the SAFE acronym as an easy-to-remember, mnemonic reminder of a successful overall safety philosophy, and illustrate that most accidents are caused by a chain of errors that, if recognized, can be broken. Last, we want to emphasize that the information in this chapter is not adequate training material for any given task. You must seek appropriate training. The American Fisheries Society (AFS) has taken a leadership role in safety awareness by establishing a Professional Safety Committee that works with the Continuing Education Committee to develop training materials for chapter, division, and parent society meetings. The committee was responsible for writing the Fisheries Safety Handbook (Professional Safety Committee 2008).
Safety training courses and accident prevention information are readily available to fisheries workers, but the real key to ensure a safe work environment is to develop a safety attitude and vision that is shared by the employee, the supervisor, and the organization. Is there a safety program where you work?