One of cable’s top rated and most dangerous television shows, “Deadliest Catch,” is mesmerizing to watch. In nearly every episode, crab fishermen operating heavy machinery in gale-force winds come close to death, or actually die.
One of the constant themes in the show is the lack of sleep. Crew members often get two to four hours of sleep per night, multiple days in row. Occasionally, a boat captain like Sig Hansen of the Northwestern will push his crew and himself to the point of exhaustion, getting minimal sleep for over 48 hours or more. Due to the extreme nature and remote location of crab fishing, the culture has been left to its own. But now with the United States connecting to watch young men get injured due to a lack of the most basic of safety protections for crew members, the issue can’t be ignored.
Studies have shown that even after just one night of deprived sleep, cognition and decision making becomes as severely impaired as being legally intoxicated. Being chronically sleep deprived can also increase your risk of obesity. Would captains like Keith Colburn of the Wizard feel comfortable getting on a plane ride home from Dutch Harbor with a pilot who just worked 48 hours with no sleep?
These old salts would probably crack a beer and hop in the jumper seat without concern. But seriously, a bit more sleep and possibly some hard-hat protection would be a good start. How do these boats get away with not following basic OSHA safety standards anyway? Let us know what you think.
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