When it comes to the use of personal flotation devices, most crabbers agree that these devices can be the only thing that saves their lives if they’re unlucky enough to fall overboard. However, many crabbers avoid wearing personal flotation devices because these are seen as uncomfortable. The National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health’s Alaska Pacific office recently conducted an evaluation of personal flotation devices used by crabbers, and found that some devices were comfortable and preferable to crabbers.

More than 50% of the crabbers admit that that they know of some fisherman who had been killed after falling overboard. About 60% of them also believe that personal flotation devices are effective in saving lives.

It comes as no surprise to maritime lawyers that when crabbers are comfortable with a certain safety device, they’re much more likely to wear it at all times during their work. A crabber, who is wearing a personal flotation device on a vessel in the choppy seas of Alaska and falls overboard, is more likely to survive, compared to one who is not wearing a life-saving device.

Most crabbers in the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health’s study did not believe personal flotation devices were uncomfortable or interfered with work, but at least half of them believed that these devices could be an entanglement hazard.

The National Institutes for Occupational Safety and Health asked 200 fishermen to wear personal flotation devices for at least one month while working on deck. The goal was to identify the types of devices that were reported as comfortable by crabbers.

After the evaluation, it was found that devices that did not restrict a person’s movement, snag on gear, did not interfere with work, and were comfortable because they were not too tight or bulky, were rated much higher.