Objectives: To identify fatal maritime disasters in Alaskan Arctic waters between 1986 and 2011. Study Design: As regional reconnaissance for an EPPR/ Arctic Council project intended to promote worker safety and health during disaster response, events were identified using public and proprietary information sources for maritime disasters, defined here as a shipwrecks, fires, and vessel casualties, in Alaskan Arctic waters, defined here as being north of 60 degrees latitude plus the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands. Events were limited to occupational incidents, within the defined geographic area and date range. Events were then broken down by vessel type and within vessel type by fatality occurrence. Concerted public/private efforts have been made since 1990 to prevent deaths in such events, and this study attempts to measure whether any progress has been made on that front. Results: Preliminary data show between 1986 and 2011 there were 166 maritime disasters in Alaskan Arctic waters. 38 (23%) of these were fatal incidents, with 128 total fatalities. The majority of these (31 incidents and 110 fatalities) were in commercial fishing. Almost all of the commercial fishing related deaths happened along or near the Aleutian Islands. 3 fatalities occurred during the response to an earlier maritime disaster. The frequency of such events decreased from 7.4/year in 1986 - 1990 to 3.8/ year in 2007 - 2011. Conclusion: Arctic waters in Alaska provide a unique challenge to workers, in particular, commercial fishermen. This challenge extends to workers responding to maritime disasters as well. The marked progress made in reducing such events during the last quarter century gives hope and may provide useful examples for such efforts in other cold waters worldwide.
Public-health; Health-services; Worker-health; Workers; Work-environment; Environmental-health; Environmental-exposure; Environmental-factors; Environmental-hazards; Injuries; Accident-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Fishing-industry; Marine-workers; Demographic-characteristics; Safety-measures; Health-protection