Safety champions foster a sea of change in fishing industry

2018 was a tragic year in Nova Scotia, with the deaths of 40 people at work or because of their work. Six people drowned in commercial fishing – a sombre reminder of the dangers that still exist in this industry. Pictured above is fisherman Timmy Saulnier (middle) of Meteghan Wharf with his family.

2018 was a tragic year in Nova Scotia, with the deaths of 40 people at work or because of their work. Six people drowned in commercial fishing – a sombre reminder of the dangers that still exist in this industry. Pictured above is fisherman Timmy Saulnier (middle) of Meteghan Wharf with his family.

STRATEGIC GOAL: Building a workplace safety culture

Timmy Saulnier’s PFD.

Timmy Saulnier’s PFD.

When Meteghan Wharf lobster fisherman Timmy Saulnier saw a Facebook post from WCB Nova Scotia promoting the importance of personal flotation devices (PFDs) he was moved to respond.

“Every time I sail out of port, these three girls remind me to be safe, to work smart and to get back home to them and my wife,” he says about a picture he posted of his PFD with the names of his three daughters embroidered on its straps. “They’re my reason for wearing my PFD.”

For too many Nova Scotian families, 2018 was a tragic year. Forty families were affected by a death at work or due to past work. Six of those were drownings in the fishing industry.

“Every time I sail out of port, these three girls remind me to be safe, to work smart and to get back home to them and my wife”
— Timmy Saulnier, Meteghan Wharf lobster fisherman
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To Timmy, it’s a stark reminder of what his family has to lose. It’s about being there to ski and snowboard with his daughters every winter, write songs with his wife, and play in a band with his cousins. “We’ve been playing music all our lives,” he says. “If I wasn’t around, I think it would be very, very hard on a lot of people.”

Tragic Reminder

The fatalities in the fishing industry in 2018 are a sombre reminder of the dangers that still exist in this industry.


Our Progress


  • Developed a new awareness campaign along with other Atlantic Canadian workers’ compensation organizations and the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
  • Launched a fishing safety campaign in response to fishing fatalities, and continued to work with the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education.
  • Supported our partners at NS Departments of Education and Early Childhood Development and Labour and Advanced Education (Private Career Colleges) to ensure secondary and post-secondary students, teachers, faculty have workplace health and safety curriculum resources to meet their needs.

Our Plans


  • Work with Nova Scotian first responder organizations to provide workplace tools and resources for workers in front-line emergency response occupations dealing with PTSD.

Over the past few years, government and WCB Nova Scotia have worked with industry to lessen the risks. The Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia (FSANS), along with the Nova Scotia Fisheries Sector Council, and numerous fishermen, family members, and public sector representatives developed Fishing Safety Now, the fishing safety plan by and for the industry that was launched in 2015.

As crews in Lobster Fishing Areas 33 and 34 prepared for “dumping day” in the fall, safety advocates focused on reminding them of the importance of wearing PFDs.

Occupational health and safety officers from Nova Scotia’s Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) increased their presence at wharves on the South Shore and the Annapolis Valley to promote safety and to ensure operators were compliant to rules and regulations.

WCB Nova Scotia and LAE launched an awareness campaign about working safely and continued to promote safety requirements for training and personal protective equipment.

The WCB also works closely with the Fisheries Safety Association of Nova Scotia (FSANS). Since 2012, FSANS has conducted 160 of its signature Man Overboard Drills, and 30 more are scheduled for 2019.

“We’re the boots on the ground at the wharf side,” says Amanda Dedrick, FSANS Executive Director. “We physically bring the equipment, put someone in the water, and walk fishing crews through these drills to get them practicing with their equipment.”

She adds, “We used to have to work hard to get people out to the demonstrations. Now we have a long list of requests from captains to come to their area for training. A real shift is happening.”

“Our goal is to get people to only do something if they can do it  safely, so they can come home to their families at the end of the day,” says Stuart MacLean, CEO of WCB Nova Scotia.

“Ultimately the challenge is to get people to want to do it. Timmy Saulnier’s lifejacket is a great example of something that helps others understand what’s really important. When you see the three girls’ names, you instantly understand why he wears his PFD.”

Timmy sees a change in the safety culture too.

“I’m very happy to see that all the fishermen are on board with wearing PFDs, even on the wharf,” he says. “They take it very seriously.”

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