Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies


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.

Featured Items

Increasing our understanding of vessel disastersexternal icon 

NIOSH researchers recently published a unique analysis of the risk factors associated with commercial fishing vessel disasters in Alaska during 2010-2015. By comparing a matched set of vessels that had and had not experienced a vessel disaster, they were able to identify several factors associated with increased odds of a vessel disaster, including a history of having experienced a less serious vessel casualty in the preceding 10 years. Their findings emphasize the importance of preventive maintenance.

Fishing Safety Success Stories

NIOSH Fishing Safety has created four safety training videos focusing on the real-life stories of fishermen who found themselves in a dangerous situation, but were able to avoid tragedy by using safety training and equipment. These videos cover man overboard and deck safety topics and are geared towards anyone working in and around the water


The NIOSH Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies (CMSHS) 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. Supporting the 400,000 workers employed in U.S. maritime industries, 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.

The CMSHS has identified six maritime industries and one maritime occupation with higher injury/illness and fatality rates than others as research priority areas including: shipyards, marine terminals and port operations, marine transportation, seafood processing, commercial fishing, aquaculture, and commercial diving. These worksites pose unique challenges as many are small businesses with few or seasonal employees, are in remote locations, and in some settings, maritime employees live and work aboard vessels.

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 4916.0
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.
Research Priorities

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; and assessment of exposures associated with coatings removal methods in shipyards.

The CMSHS contributes to the following NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2023 goals that will help reduce injuries and illness among maritime workers:


The Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies (CMSHS) Program Performance One-Pager (PPOP) offers a snapshot of NIOSH programs’ priorities, strategies used to make progress towards priorities, recent accomplishments, and upcoming work.

Over the past year, the CMSHS has developed various documents and resources for maritime workers:

Developed COVID-19 resources and presentations such as guideline documents on Protecting Seafood Processing Workers from COVID-19 and What Maritime Pilots Need to Know about COVID-19 , and presentations on COVID-19 Prevention and Mitigationexternal icon, COVID-19 Testing Strategies for U.S. Merchant Marinersexternal icon, and COVID-19 Vaccines for the Marine Transportation Workforceexternal icon.

To learn more

Resources related to maritime industries such as publications, guidance documents and various hazards relevant to the maritime industries can be found on the Maritime Workplace Safety & Health Topic Page 

Contact the Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies with any questions at

Page last reviewed: June 23, 2021