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Marine / November deadline for fishermen to obtain medical certificate

SHETLAND’s commercial fishermen are being reminded that they need to have a medical to work at sea as part of new government legislation.

Meanwhile anyone who has a medical condition, and may not meet the medical standards, are only eligible for ‘Grandfather Rights’ up to 30 November 2023.

Shetland Fishermen’s Association executive officer Sheila Keith said if any local fishermen feel disadvantaged by the new requirement they should get in touch.

She said the MCA [Maritime and Coastguard Agency] “assured the fishing industry that this was never their intention, and we will hold them to account on that”.

It comes amid a report in a national newspaper that fishermen face being ousted from the industry if their BMI number – a body mass calculation based on height and weight – was more than 35.

Keith said statistics show that only two fishermen in Scotland have been turned down for medicals after being referred to the MCA doctor, “and in each case they were for legitimate medical reasons”.

She said working on the water means “you are further away from medical facilities and treatment so need to have a suitable level of health – one of the many reasons the medical certificate is required by international law”.

SFA executive officer Sheila Keith.

The International Labour Organization’s Work in Fishing Convention (ILO188) came into force internationally in November 2017.

The UK Government ratified ILO188 a few years ago and has phased in its implementation.

Keith said one of the last regulations to be brought in is the requirement for all UK commercial fishermen to hold a medical fitness certificate.

Fishermen are required to have a medical certificate from 30 November.

“The regulations are designed to improve the rights, safety and welfare of fishermen working on UK vessels and reducing the likelihood of medical emergencies occurring at sea is part of that,” she said.

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For most fishermen the medical certificate needed is an “ML5” – a doctor-approved record that shows you are fit enough to work safely at sea, with an ENG1 medical being another option to comply to the regulations.

“It was never the intention that the new medical certificate requirements would keep active fishermen from doing their job and that is why the use of Grandfather Rights has been available over the past four years, although the opportunity to access these rights expire on the 30 November 2023,” she said.

Grandfather Rights aim to ensure that people with existing medical conditions can continue to work in their occupation.

The UK Government says the medical certificate provides fishermen with “reassurance that they’re medically fit enough to do their work, without causing a risk to themselves or others”.

Keith added: “In turn this reduces the risk of falling ill while at sea, and gives a better chance of being recovered alive should the worst happen.

“The work of fishermen is both physically and mentally demanding, so health needs to be put first.”

The government says anyone who is not issued a certificate by a doctor will be referred to an MCA-appointed medical assessor for a decision.

More information can be found here.

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