If you regularly use jetties and piers – whether indulging in a spot of fishing, embarking or disembarking from sea-going crafts or just enjoying the sun and ocean breezes – you have a responsibility to yourself and others using the space to stay safe at all times.
Here are a few things to remember:
- Wear bright gear. Prepare for the worst scenario and be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t happen. That’s the sage advice of the Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and satirist, Seneca (c. 4 BC-AD 65), and it still holds today. If the worst happens and you or a family member fall into the ocean, you want others to see you easily. This is particularly important if you’re taking kids out onto a pier or jetty.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunglasses, hats, long sleeves and SPF 30+ are de rigueur if you’re aiming to spend any extended time out on a jetty. The water makes the refracted rays far worse, and there’s no room to mess around with UV rays when it comes to skin cancer. Added bonus? Sunglasses will protect your eyes from a lure or hook gone astray.
- Check the forecast. A pier or jetty is no place to be if the weather is inclement. You can easily get blown off in high winds or washed off in high seas. Check your favourite weather app and stay away if things look like they’ll turn nasty.
- Take a life jacket. Anywhere where there’s boat traffic coming, and people fishing can be an opportunity for an accident. Make sure young children wear life jackets, too – they can be excitable and energetic on a pier and barriers can prove no match for their antics. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Look for ladders. In addition to life jackets, if you’re planning to spend extended time on a jetty or pier, choose one that has a ladder into the water. In the rare event that you’ll find yourself in the water, you want to be able to get back up to the jetty as quickly and efficiently as possible – sometimes the swim to shore can be long.
- Be aware of fishy dangers. Not all fish are safe to touch. Stinging fish include butterfly cod, scorpion cod, the ironically named happy moments, catfish and flathead – all of which can be painful if grabbed. Stonefish stings can be potentially fatal if you don’t get to antivenom fast enough. Toadfish will also give you a nasty bite.
- Bring your first aid kit. Heaven forbid you’ll need it but consider keeping a basic first aid kit handy. Include an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic cream, band-aids, a bandage and small pliers (for removing barbs and hooks).
A note about jetty maintenance
When choosing a jetty or pier to spend time on you should always pay close attention to its condition, particularly if fishing with your family. Poorly maintained docks and piers are significant safety and health hazards (it’s been a legal requirement since the 1926 Jetty Act to ensure they meet national safety standards).
Remember that marine structures take a beating from the elements, sea crafts and sea life (barnacles, molluscs, shellfish and microorganisms) and require regular marine maintenance to stop them deteriorating beyond repair.
If a jetty looks unstable or in a state of ill repair, it’s best to give it a wide berth.