If you are heading to sea for the first time it is important to be properly equipped with the right deckhand apparel and essential safety equipment

There are various sectors of fisheries and within those sectors there are numerous types of fishing.. Having the correct equipment can make life easier and it can also save your life.

No matter what sector or type of fishing you are undertaking, the apparel and safety equipment are generally the same.


Deckhand Apparel & Safety Equipment 

On deck, the oilskins are a deckhands best friend. 

Oilskins come in a wide variety of colours and materials these days.

The traditional bright orange suits are still available. When I started fishing I borrowed  my father’s oilskins. He had them from the 70’s when he worked in the local boatyard.

Oilskins got their name from a cotton fabric made waterproof by treatment with oil. Modern oilskins Modern oilskins may be made of flexible PVC-coated synthetic fabric with contemporary oilskins including such innovations as DWR-coated nylon on their low end and Gore-Tex and other proprietary waterproof membranes on the high.

Oilskins usually come in two-pieces; jacket and leggings (trousers). Oilskin jackets can also be worn with chest waders or bibs and braces.

A popular overall worn by crews and skippers alike is the flotation suit which can come in a one piece or as in a two piece. 

The flotation suit is thermal insulated and the one-piece sit is generally watertight with reinforced knees for durability.

It is advised to wear a PFD even thought the suit is buoyant.


Deckhand Apparel & Safety Equipment 

On a fishing boat the general footwear used is the Wellington boot.

Fishermen for over a hundreds years have relied on the Wellington boot.

Waterproof and made of rubber, the boot is durable and is essential when working around the deck, in the fish hold and on the pier. Wellington boots can also be steel toe capped. Most modern wellington boots have thermal insulation and are designed to be comfortable with a non-slip sole.

Safety boots are also useful around the boat, especially working in the engine room or working in areas where heavy objects are used. Most safety boots come with a kevlar protection insert protects the user from heat, impacts, and punctures. When purchasing a safety boot make sure that is one of the best because your feet might depend on it.

In the old days, the crew would trample through the boat with their wellies and oilskins on but these days, this practice is getting less and less common as newer boats provide changing areas outside the accommodation and it is required of the crew to wear slippers or clogs in the wheelhouse and the living areas of the boat.

Gloves & Knives

Deckhand Apparel & Safety Equipment 

Another piece of essential kit for working on deck are gloves.

Choosing the correct glove for the work you are carrying out. Too light a glove and it will wear through quickly doing heavy work and you might put your hands at the risk of injury. Too heavy a glove and it can make life awkward when you need nimble fingers.

The general rule is to pick heavy duty gloves for working with wires and heavy ropes and light strong gloves for fish handling.

Knives are another important part of a deckhands equipment. Depending on the job, whether gutting, filleting or rope work, picking the correct knife for the job is all important.

Head Gear

Deckhand Apparel & Safety Equipment 

Working on deck is always dangerous with many different encounters where things can go wrong.

The open-deck with heavy machinery such as cranes lifting dangerous overhead loads, working with trawl winches, wire and cables, working with bridles and net drums, and hauling in cod-ends can leave a deckhand exposed to many dangerous incidents.

When an accident comes from above or behind you, there is little chance that you will see it coming.

Wearing a hardhat or a helmet can be the difference between life, a life changing injury or death.

Not compulsory but generally is essential, is the beanie. The beanie can be any colour you like but make sure it is warm and covers the ears. It will not protect you from an accident but it might keep the brain from freezing.


Deckhand Apparel & Safety Equipment 

The essential safety equipment required onboard any fishing vessel is a lifejacket.

Choosing the right lifejacket or buoyancy aid for your activity can be difficult. With many different options to choose from and technical language that can be confusing, you might end up using something unsuitable, or worse, not using one at all.

A personal flotation device (PFD) is something you wear that will keep you afloat should you enter the water. There are a number of different types, but the most common are buoyancy aids and, in particular, lifejackets.

Choosing the right lifejacket is highly important. There are many different makes and models out there that can be best suited to you. Most level 150 and level 275 inflatable lifejackets are produced in one size suitable for all adults weighing over 40kgs (6 stone 4lbs).

The only limiting factor can be the length of the waist/chest belt, which can vary between makes. Choosing the wrong type of lifejacket can leave you frustrated and uncomfortable increasing the temptation to remove it completely.

In Ireland, the law requires that an appropriate lifejacket or buoyancy aid must be carried for everyone onboard all vessels. If the craft is under 7m, personal flotation devices must be worn at all times on an open vessel or on deck on a vessel with accommodation. 

Lifejacket – level 100

The level 100 lifejacket is recommended for use in sheltered and calm waters. It may not have sufficient buoyancy to protect a person who is unable to help themselves and may not roll an unconscious person on to their back.

Lifejacket – level 150

The level 150 lifejacket is for general use on coastal and offshore waters where a high standard of performance is required.

It should turn an unconscious person on to their back and requires no subsequent action by the wearer to keep their face out of the water. Its performance may be affected if the user is wearing heavy and/or waterproof clothing.

Lifejacket – level 275

The level 275 lifejacket is recommended for offshore use, primarily for extreme conditions and for those wearing heavy protective clothing that may adversely affect the self-righting capacity of lesser lifejackets. As with the level 150, this lifejacket is designed to ensure that the wearer is floating in the correct position with their mouth and nose clear of the surface of the water.

Personal Protection Equipment

Deckhand Apparel & Safety Equipment 

Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) is an important part of health and safety for fishermen today.

From working in the hold or working in the engine room or working on deck deckhands from dust to chemicals, noise to silent deadly gases.

A crewman may require ear defenders, safety glasses or goggles, latex gloves, mask respirators, hi-viz jackets and lanyards for operating in hazardous sections of the boat.

The Fishing Daily would like to thank Mooney Boats Ltd of Killybegs for their help in assembling this information