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Measuring risk of cumulative musculoskeletal trauma in fishing vessels.

Fulmer S; Buchholz B
Proceedings of the International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference, October 23-25, 2000, Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Lincoln JM, Hudson DS, Conway GA, Pescatore R eds. Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-102, 2002 Oct; :341-249
The three kinds of fish harvesting observed involved gear designed for that particular fishery. Lobstering and gillnetting are classified as stationary gear, while otter trawling is classified as mobile gear. Each of the gear types is designed to trap and remove fish or shellfish from their natural environment. Successful production in commercial fishing is simply a matter of volume, with limits on species regulated by state and federal governing bodies. Crews try to haul in as much fish or shellfish as possible, clean and prepare it for storage as needed, and stow it into some kind of holding area. Beyond regulations on gear size, harvesting equipment is not standardized. The major risk factors to musculoskeletal disorder are related to materials handling. The frequent hauling of traps requires some awkward posturing, frequent and sometimes forceful lifts. Handling bait and removing catch did not usually require great force, but was repetitive and required both speed and precision. The movement of the fishing boats at sea was significant, yet was not fully predictable. Although these were less than ideal working conditions, experienced individuals had some skills in compensating, as the work demanded smoother handling practices that fully utilized mechanical advantages. The sternmen on the lobster boats were able to use the rising boat to create inertia when lifting the traps. Work stress resulted from the condition and management of the fisheries. One captain pointed to concerns he had for the "big picture". He was most concerned about over-fishing. In particular, he felt that the government has not taken adequate measures to manage fishery resources, and will be forced to react too forcefully to what will be an unavoidable need for emergency protection. When this happens, competitive forces will make economic survival more of a challenge than it is presently. These forces, or the mere perception of these forces, present an increased risk for poor health outcomes in multiple ways. Primarily, they put pressure on the observed vessels to put more time at sea to compensate for the decrease in the fishery resource. More time at sea increases the exposure to the known risk factors. Secondly, but no less significantly, there is additional systemic stress to fish harvesters who may perceive that the work that they are doing is not truly a path to economic well- being. Although they may have felt that the work is not worth the risk, they were bound and committed to it by virtue of being boat owners or experienced hands who had no immediately viable alternatives. Karasek and Theorell [1990] have demonstrated risk for undesirable health outcomes in any work environment where such a high job demand is exacerbated by low decision latitude.
Fishing-industry; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Traumatic-injuries; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Equipment-design; Safety-equipment; Safety-practices; Safety-programs; Musculoskeletal-system-disorders; Musculoskeletal-system; Muscles
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Email Address
Lincoln JM; Hudson DS; Conway GA; Pescatore R
Funding Amount
Funding Type
Agriculture; Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Priority Area
Traumatic Injuries
SIC Code
Source Name
Proceedings of the International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference, October 23-25, 2000, Woods Hole, Massachusetts
Performing Organization
The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown, New York
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division