A new research report from Oregon State University says many injuries aboard freezer-trawlers and freezer-longliner vessels could be prevented by changes in the processing and handling of fish.
“We’ve drilled down to such a detailed level in the injury data that we can actually address specific hazards and develop prevention strategies,” said Devin Lucas, of the Alaska Pacific office of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The study is the first scientific assessment of the risk of fishing on freezer-trawlers and freezer-longline vessels, both of which process fish onboard. The vessels had reputations for being among the most dangerous in commercial fishing, in part because of a few incidents that resulted in multiple fatalities. Lucas said an analysis of 12 years of injury data showed that the rate of injury on freezer-trawlers was actually about the same as the national average for commercial fishing, while the rate aboard freezer-longliners was about half the national average.
Most injuries in the freezer-trawler fleet occurred in the factories and freezer holds, while the most common injuries in the freezer-longliner fleet occurred on deck while working the fishing gear, Lucas said. Injuries from processing and handling fish were also common on the longliners, the research showed.
Methods used in the research can now be applied to other commercial fishing industries to identify safety issues and pinpoint areas for prevention, said study co-author Laurel Kincl, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and safety at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Kincl said researchers are hoping to build from this research and explore other fishing related injuries and prevention strategies. The Dungeness crab industry is one area that may be explored and another is land-based fish processing, she said.
Additional authors of the study included Jennifer Lincoln of NIOSH, and Viktor E. Bovbjerg and Adam J. Branscum, associate professors in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.
Their research findings, supported by NIOSH and OSU, were published recently in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.