Every so often, I go to our little office galley and don't notice until after I've washed my hands that the paper towel roll is just that — a cardboard roll with no paper towels left on it.
I sigh, open the drawer at my left hip that holds the spare paper towel rolls and take the next 15 seconds to unwrap it and pop a new roll back in place.
I think this is common courtesy, but obviously not everyone does. So the question is how long will it take to convince everyone in my office to replace the roll if they've used it up?
And of course, the answer is that will never happen.
That's why when people talk about marine safety, drills and equipment without the ability to understand why every boat doesn't simply get upgraded with the latest and greatest, I try to keep in mind that you have to leave room for differences in temperament and culture.
If we can't convince people to take a few seconds to replace an empty paper towel roll with a new (free to them) roll, what chance do we have of convincing everyone to take significantly more time and money to commit to optimum safety? Yes, the risks are far higher out on the water. We are talking life and death, not simply inconvenience.
That is exactly why we need groups like the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety's Alaska office, headed by Jennifer Lincoln, and the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association, headed by Jerry Dzugan. These groups are the mouthpieces for industry safety practices. Without them, many endeavors toward maintaining and improving safety measures will disappear. Who has time to make a crusade for safety when there are fish to be caught, crew to hire, a boat to maintain?
These organizations rely on federal funding to keep working toward lifesaving measures in commercial fishing. Jennifer and her NIOSH crew have had their funding cut from the federal 2013 budget. The NIOSH Alaska office has done so much to improve the lives of commercial fishermen that we can't, as an industry, let them fall by the wayside.
Commercial fishing was just proclaimed (again) Alaska's deadliest job, so it seems like a no-brainer to have a field office dedicated to improving safety in the country's biggest commercial fishing state. But Jennifer's NIOSH team worked hard to improve the lives of commercial fishermen everywhere. Their work is profiled in part in a story by our Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley on page 36. But it also comes to the fore when we read many of our Coast Guard Consequences stories, like the one on page 9, about a winch entanglement that could have been prevented with the NIOSH Alaska Field Office's capstan e-stop.
I hope you will join the staff of National Fisherman in pushing for support to keep the NIOSH Alaska program afloat. Contact your federal representatives today!
– Jessica Hathaway
National Fisherman Live for Dec. 18, 2013
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