Maritime Safety and Health Studies: Program Description

Maritime work environments are dynamic, with a wide variety of hazards.  Image credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus

Maritime work environments are dynamic, with a wide variety of hazards. Image credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus

Program Description

The NIOSH Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies (CMSHS) conducts and supports research to improve safety and health for maritime workers, which are found in every U.S. state and across multiple industry sectors. CMSHS, a “virtual center” managed by the NIOSH Western States Division, serves as a hub for intramural and extramural researchers to work together on various projects, while developing research partnerships with industry, academia, labor, government agencies, and safety organizations throughout the U.S. and the world.

CMSHS addresses the unique occupational safety and health hazards within the maritime industries through the following four research objectives: prevent work-related fatalities in maritime industries; prevent vessel casualties (e.g., collisions, capsizings, sinkings, explosions); prevent illness and non-fatal injury from occupational hazards; and assess and promote effective safety and health programs that address hazards associated with a workplace having multiple employers and work arrangements, multi-language work settings, fatigue, and stress.

CMSHS currently prioritizes seven maritime industries/occupations: shipyards, marine terminals and port operations, marine transportation, seafood processing, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and commercial diving. These industries and occupations have injury/illness and fatality rates higher than others in the U.S. They also pose unique challenges for occupational safety and health outreach, as many are made up of small businesses with few or seasonal employees, or are in remote locations. In some settings, maritime employees live and work aboard vessels.

Current focus areas include epidemiologic analysis to understand risks associated with fatalities, nonfatal traumatic injuries, and cumulative musculoskeletal injuries in commercial fishing and seafood processing; design of engineering interventions to prevent winch entanglements on commercial fishing vessels and promote adoption of those interventions among fishermen; analyses of factors associated with vessel casualties and disasters, and identification of relevant prevention strategies; assessment of exposures associated with coatings removal methods in shipyards; and interventions to improve vehicle and pedestrian safety in marine terminals. Center activities, done collaboratively with partners, include research, promotion of scientific findings, dissemination of practical guidance, and development of intervention technologies.

Average Annual U.S. Maritime Employment and Fatal/Nonfatal Injury and Illness Rates, 2011–20171
NAICS or SOC2 U.S. Employment3: U.S. Fatality rate per 100,000 workers4: U.S. Nonfatal injury/illness rate per 100,000 workers5:
Ship and boat building 3366 164,630 4.0 5,369.8
Marine terminals and port operations 4883 98,267 15.9 4,916.0
Water transportation 483 67,532 18.4 2,326.7
Seafood processing 3117 36,880 6.3 6,670.2
Commercial fishing SOC 45-3011 33,917 93.0 441.8
Aquaculture 1125 6,627 18.9 5,237.4
Commercial Diving SOC 49-9092 3,509 158.9 1,867.4
  1. Fatal and nonfatal injury and illness rates may be inflated due to undercounting of total workers in some industries/occupations. Traditionally, maritime workers have been undercounted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics due to the remoteness of job location, part-time or temporary nature of the work, overlap with other industries/occupations, and other factors.
  2. NAICS is the North American Industry Classification System and SOC is the Standard Occupational Classification.
  3. Worker counts are based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics six-year average of workers, 2011–2017. Commercial fishing counts are from the Current Population Survey, commercial diving counts are from Occupational Employment and Wages tables, and all others are from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.
  4. Fatality rates are based on six-year averages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 2011–2017.
  5. Nonfatal injury and illness rates are based on six-year averages of Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, 2011–2017.
Page last reviewed: May 7, 2020