Survival Suits: What They’re For and How They Work

Survival suits, also known as immersion suits, are a special type of waterproof suit that protect fishermen and others at sea from hypothermia when immersed in cold water. Typically, someone at sea would wear these suits when abandoning a sinking or capsized vessel. The suits have built-in boots, a hood and gloves.

Survival suits come in two types: designed to be worn all the time and designed only to be worn in emergencies. The ones designed to be worn all the time are typically used by deep-sea fishermen who work in cold-water fishing area. These suits are usually similar to scuba diver suits. Survival suits used for emergencies only are stowed aboard vessels and worn only in the event of a vessel evacuation or abandonment. These suits are designed to extend a person’s survival by several hours while awaiting rescue. The suit is to be worn while fully clothed and has a front waterproof zipper and face flap to seal out water and protect the wearer’s face from ocean spray. The suit floats and has thermal protection to keep the wearer warm in cold waters.

The Coast Guard requires monthly inspections on all survival suits for all inspected fishing vessels, and annual inspection, cleaning and repair of the suits for uninspected commercial fishing vessels. Studies have shown that the material and adhesives used in the immersion suits deteriorate over time. The Coast Guard discovered on an annual inspection of a U.S. flag vessel in 2006 that 36 of 66 immersion suits were unusable. It is also recommended that the zippers on immersion suits are lubricated regularly to prevent and remove corrosion. Ship owners that do not maintain equipment like immersion suits properly can face fines and other penalties.

In a case regarding the sinking of the F/V CAPE FEAR, Latti & Anderson has represented two families of the deceased crew members.  In that case, liability focused on the failure to properly maintain the survival suits, specifically the zipper of the survival suits were not properly lubricated monthly.  The evidence presented at trial was when the vessel sank, crew member(s) could not pull the zipper on the survival suit up.  In fact, one crew member’s body washed ashore in his survival suit, completely on but the zipper was around his navel and not zippered up. In that case, the jury awarded money to the families for the lost of their loved ones.

Our maritime law attorneys are dedicated to representing injured fishermen throughout the ports of the United States and understand the risks those who work at sea are exposed to every day. We have obtained millions of dollars for injured clients and their families that have been victims of negligence at sea. If you or someone you love has been injured while working on the water, contact our  maritime injury attorneys today or call us at (800) 392-6072.

Latti & Anderson LLPNationwide maritime attorneys