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Safety on the Seas: a Salty Campaign for NIOSH



How do you get fearless, hard-working commercial fishermen in Alaska to wear life jackets when they’re working? We’re embracing this challenge in a project with the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (part of the CDC).

Those fishermen are a tough crowd to reach: When they’re out at sea, they’re not exposed to media where we could reinforce the message. When they’re on shore, many of them quickly head far from harbor to see family.

Moreover, they’re a tough crowd to convince. After interviewing a couple hundred of them, it became clear to us that personal floatation devices have a bad rap on the seas: Some think they’re uncomfortable or will get in the way of work. Others think they won’t make a difference in the icy North Pacific anyway.

They’ve heard admonishments from their mothers and wives, but moms and wives worry. They’ve heard reassurances from PFD manufacturers, but that’s just hype to them.

Ultimately, we concluded that the best way to reach them was through the one person in the world who can tell them exactly what to do: The ship captain.

And that’s how Angus Iversen was born. Angus tells it like it is, but he doesn’t just boss people around. He’s got a simple message: If you want to live to be a salty old cuss like him, you’ll wear a PFD.

salty_Poster_blog1He’s spreading that message via a website, LiveToBeSalty.org, where fishermen and captains can find information about the best PFDs for different jobs; they can also download printable posters, bumper stickers and more.

Angus is just starting to get out there where the fishermen are, so we’ll see if he can influence attitudes. Between 2000–2010, 170 commercial fishermen died from falling overboard — and exactly zero of those fishermen were wearing a PFD.

We have high hopes for the campaign. But to be honest with you, if Angus can save just one life by convincing a fisherman to wear a PFD before he falls overboard, we’ll be pretty happy.

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