COMMERCIAL FISHING SAFETY

Fishing Safety Research Publications

A collage featuring cover images from a variety of NIOSH commercial fishing safety publications.

The following is a chronological list of NIOSH-published and NIOSH-authored publications on commercial fishing safety. You will also find relevant documents from external organizations as well. Most documents are available for download in PDF format. You can also search for NIOSH fishing safety publications in the NIOSHTIC-2 database.

NIOSH Publications

Fishing Safety Success Story: I Reached Over and Hit the E-Stop
NIOSH Publication No. 2018-153 (July 2018)
Entanglements in fishing gear and deck machinery are a leading cause of injuries in commercial fishing. Pat and his crew used an emergency stop (E-Stop) on their deck winch to prevent an injury to one of their deckhands while salmon seining in Alaska. Being able to stop deck machinery quickly and easily can mean the difference between a near miss, a career-ending injury, or even death. Find out more about preventing entanglement injuries at www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fishing/decksafety.html.

Fishing Safety Success Story: My Life Vest Saved Me
NIOSH Publication No. 2018-107d (March 2018)
Falls overboard are the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen in the Unites States. Between 2000 and 2014 there were 210 fatal falls overboard in the United States and NONE of the victims were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) when they drowned. This video tells Stan’s story, who fell overboard setting pots at the start of Dungeness crab season in Oregon and how his PFD saved his life.

Regional Commercial Fishing Fatality Summaries (2010-2014):

Alaska Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2017-171 (July 2017)
West Coast Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2017-172 (July 2017)
East Coast Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2017-173 (July 2017)
Gulf of Mexico Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2017-174 (July 2017)

Assessment of Safety in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island Crab Fleet
NIOSH Publication No. 2016-112 (April 2016)
This report provides a detailed analysis of work-related injuries and vessel safety issues within the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island (BSAI) crab fleet to identify both hazards and opportunities for safety improvements within the fleet. The findings and recommendations in this report are especially relevant to the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, United States Coast Guard, and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island crab fleet.

Reducing Winch Entanglements with Auxiliary-stop Device
NIOSH Publication No. 2016-105 (December 2015)
From 2000-2011 there were 35 severe work-related injuries, including 8 fatalities, caused by deck winches on shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the injuries and fatalities involved entanglements in the “try-net” winch used by shrimp boats in this fishery. NIOSH is developing an Auxiliary Stop switch system for the electric-driven try-net winches used on shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico. This fact sheet discusses the work conducted to date and invites additional shrimp fishermen to participate in the research study.

Reducing Winch Entanglements with Stationary Guarding
NIOSH Publication No. 2016-104 (December 2015)
From 2000-2011 there were 35 severe work-related injuries, including 8 fatalities, caused by deck winches on shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico. NIOSH is currently developing stationary guard systems for the three most common main deck winches used by boats in this fishery. This fact sheet discusses the work conducted to date and invites additional shrimp fishermen to participate in the research study.

Fleet Safety Fact Sheet: Freezer Longliners
NIOSH Publication No. 2015-238 (August 2015)
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) performed a scientific review of workplace safety in the freezer longline fleet to understand the trends and identify opportunities to enhance safety for crews on these vessels. Researchers found that the annual number of injuries in the freezer longline fleet was 25 per year during 2001-2012 for a total of 303 work-related injuries (9 fatal, 294 non-fatal). The risk for non-fatal injuries was 35 per 1,000 full-time equivalent employees, about three times higher than average U.S. workers.

Fleet Safety Fact Sheet: Amendment 80 Factory Trawlers
NIOSH Publication No. 2015-237 (August 2015)
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) performed a scientific review of workplace safety in the Amendment 80 (A80) trawl fleet to understand the trends and identify opportunities to enhance safety for crews on these vessels. Researchers found that the annual number of injuries in the A80 fleet was 34 per year during 2001-2012 for a total of 409 work-related injuries (25 fatal, 384 non-fatal). The risk for non-fatal injuries was 43 injuries per 1,000 full-time equivalent employees, about four times higher than average U.S. workers.

PFDs That Work: Dungeness Crabbers
NIOSH Publication No. 2015-180 (May 2015)
Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. Of the 182 fishermen who died from falls overboard between 2000 and 2011 NONE of them were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Researchers from the University of Washington, Oregon Health Science University and the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office conducted an evaluation with commercial Dungeness crab fishermen in Oregon to rate the comfort and acceptability of five modern personal flotation devices (PFDs). Fifty fishermen were asked to evaluate a PFD for one month while working on deck so that wearable PFDs could be identified. This document shows which PFDs were preferred by Dungeness crabbers.

A Story of Impact: PFD Manufacturer Adopts NIOSH Research into Product Development Process
NIOSH Publication No. 2015-119 (November 2014)
Based on the results of the NIOSH PFD study, a national PFD manufacturer realized there was a need for innovative PFD designs to improve comfort for workers in the fishing industry. They extended the NIOSH study and took a variety of commercially available PFDs to test on several boats where crewmembers gave feedback on the mobility of each PFD. Based on their market research, the company developed a prototype designed to be worn under bibs and raingear with 12 lbs. of flotation, the optimal amount to maintain a low profile while still maintaining buoyancy. Their final product is now commercially available.

Commercial Fishing Morbidity and Mortality, U.S. Distant Water Tuna Fleet, 2006-2012
NIOSH Publication No. 2014-126 (May 2014)
The U.S. Distant Water Tuna Fleet (DWTF) has grown significantly from 14 vessels in 2006 to a total of 39 vessels in 2012. This report looks at fatal and non-fatal traumatic injuries among workers in the DWTF and provides recommendations for preventing future injuries and fatalities.

Paul Revere: A Story of Survival in Bristol Bay
NIOSH Publication No. 2014-115d (March 2014)
Vessel disasters account for over 50% of commercial fishing fatalities in the United States. This video highlights an all too common type of vessel disaster, a rapid capsizing event due to large waves. The story focuses on a vessel that capsizes in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, and the crew was able to survive 2 hours in the cold water due to the inflatable Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) they wear as standard work gear. The PFDs kept them afloat while they worked on getting to shore. PFDs are a proven solution to extending survival time of workers in the water, even cold water. NIOSH recommends all fishermen find a comfortable PFD and wear it on deck 100% of the time.

Live to be Salty (Poster Set)
NIOSH Publication No. 2014-107 (December 2013)

Comprehensive List of Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles on Occupational Safety in the International Fishing Industry, 1954-2012Cdc-pdf
NIOSH has compiled a comprehensive bibliography of peer-reviewed journal articles on fishing safety published in the last 60 years. The papers span the globe and include a range of topics such as man overboard safety, fisheries management effects on safety, occupational culture and safety, vessel design to promote workplace safety, and more. Take a look and see where the industry has been and where we can take our research in the future.

PFDs That Work: Overview
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-131 (November 2012)
Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. Of the 182 fishermen who died from falls overboard between 2000 and 2011 NONE of them were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Researchers from the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office conducted an evaluation with commercial fishermen from 4 gear groups to rate the comfort and acceptability of six modern personal flotation devices (PFDs). About 200 fishermen were asked to evaluate a PFD for one month while working on deck so that wearable PFDs could be identified. This document is a supplement to the gear-specific fact sheets we have also published and has guidance for selecting a PFD that will work for you.

PFDs That Work: Trawlers
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-109 (November 2012)
Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. Of the 182 fishermen who died from falls overboard between 2000 and 2011 NONE of them were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Researchers from the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office conducted an evaluation with commercial fishermen from 4 gear groups to rate the comfort and acceptability of six modern personal flotation devices (PFDs). About 200 fishermen were asked to evaluate a PFD for one month while working on deck so that wearable PFDs could be identified. This document shows which PFDs were preferred by trawlers.

PFDs That Work: Longliners
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-108 (November 2012)
Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. Of the 182 fishermen who died from falls overboard between 2000 and 2011 NONE of them were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Researchers from the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office conducted an evaluation with commercial fishermen from 4 gear groups to rate the comfort and acceptability of six modern personal flotation devices (PFDs). About 200 fishermen were asked to evaluate a PFD for one month while working on deck so that wearable PFDs could be identified. This document shows which PFDs were preferred by longliners.

PFDs That Work: Gillnetters
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-107 (November 2012)
Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. Of the 182 fishermen who died from falls overboard between 2000 and 2011 NONE of them were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Researchers from the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office conducted an evaluation with commercial fishermen from 4 gear groups to rate the comfort and acceptability of six modern personal flotation devices (PFDs). About 200 fishermen were asked to evaluate a PFD for one month while working on deck so that wearable PFDs could be identified. This document shows which PFDs were preferred by gillnetters.

PFDs That Work: Crabbers
NIOSH Publication No. 2013-106 (November 2012)
Falling overboard is the second leading cause of death among commercial fishermen nationwide. Of the 182 fishermen who died from falls overboard between 2000 and 2011 NONE of them were wearing a personal flotation device (PFD). Researchers from the NIOSH Alaska Pacific Office conducted an evaluation with commercial fishermen from 4 gear groups to rate the comfort and acceptability of six modern personal flotation devices (PFDs). About 200 fishermen were asked to evaluate a PFD for one month while working on deck so that wearable PFDs could be identified. This document shows which PFDs were preferred by crabbers.

A Story of Impact: NIOSH Research Cited in Recommendations for Improving Commercial Fishing
NIOSH Publication No. 2012-129 (March 2012)
In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) asked NIOSH to participate in the Fishing Vessel Safety Forum held in Washington, DC. The NTSB used NIOSH research presented during the forum to develop recommendations for improving commercial fishing safety. NIOSH research was cited in the recommendations published by the NTSB in November 2011.

Man Overboard Prevention and Recovery
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-126d (February 2011)
This is a safety awareness video designed to help crew members be more aware of how to prevent and respond to man overboard events. It features interviews with fishermen about experiences with falling overboard, and explains how to successfully recover a person in the water. The video also highlights different equipment that is available such as man overboard alarms and various rescue devices.

Fatal Occupational Injuries in the U.S. Commercial Fishing Industry: Risk Factors and Recommendations:

Alaska Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-103 (November 2010)
West Coast Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-104 (November 2010)
East Coast Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-105 (November 2010)
Gulf of Mexico Region
NIOSH Publication No. 2011-106 (November 2010)

The most powerful thing…deck safety awareness for purse seiners
NIOSH Publication No. 2007-126d (April 2007)
The most powerful thing is a safety awareness video designed to help crew members be more aware of safety hazards on board purse seining vessels. It features interviews with fishermen about their experiences working around, and in some cases being injured by, the capstan winch. In addition, the video highlights an engineering solution developed to help prevent injuries that occur as a result of getting entangled around the winch.

Deck safety in the commercial fishing industry: development of an emergency-stop system for a hydraulic deck winch (April 2006)
NORA Symposium 2006: Research Makes a Difference! April 18-26, 2006, Washington, DC, 95-96

Proceedings, Second International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference
NIOSH Publication No. 2006-114 (April 2006)
This proceedings volume includes manuscripts submitted for 28 of the 40 presentations given at this Conference in Sitka, Alaska from September 22-24, 2003.

Dangers of Entanglement During Lobstering
NIOSH Publication No. 2005-137 (August 2005)
This document describes the hazards of commercial lobster fishing and a survey conducted among 103 lobstermen to develop recommendations to (1) reduce entanglement, (2) escape entanglement, and (3) provide opportunities to reboard the vessel.

Proceedings of the International Fishing Industry Safety and Health Conference
NIOSH Publication No. 2003-102 (October 2002)
This proceedings volume contains articles on health and safety recommendations for commercial fishermen, from some of the most knowledgeable researchers and commercial fishing experts from around the world.

Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injuries in Alaska: A Decade of Progress, 1990-1999
NIOSH Publication No. 2002-115 (May 2002)
This document provides a good overview of the dangerous conditions that many workers in Alaska face in the commercial fishing and aviation industries. The document outlines the working conditions of commercial fishermen, the safety problems they encounter, and the progress that has been made in reducing work-related deaths in this industry.

Commercial fishing fatalities in Alaska: risk factors and prevention strategies
NIOSH Publication No. 97-163 (September 1997)
This Current Intelligence Bulletin outlines risk factors and prevention strategies for commercial fishing deaths in Alaska. The document includes a discussion of management regimes, safety role of the USCG in implementing CFIVSA, and recommendations.

Selected Peer-reviewed Scientific Articles

(for a complete list please refer to NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Commercial Fishing)

Preventing Fatal Winch Entanglements in the US Southern Shrimp Fleet: A Research to Practice Approach.
Journal of Safety Research: February 2017 / 60: 119-123
This paper describes the development and testing of effective static guarding for drum winches on side-trawl shrimp vessels in the Gulf of Mexico.

Primary Prevention of Fishing Vessel Disasters: Evaluation of a United States Coast Guard Policy Intervention
Marine Policy: December 2014 / 50(part A):67-73

Work-related Traumatic Injuries Onboard Freezer-trawlers and Freezer-longliners Operating in Alaskan Waters During 2001-2012
American Journal of Independent Medicine: July 2014 / 57(7):826-836

Fatal and Nonfatal Injuries Involving Fishing Vessel Winches — Southern Shrimp Fleet, United States, 2000–2011
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: March 2013 / 62(09): 157-160
Nearly 10% of fatalities in the U.S. commercial fishing industry are caused by injuries sustained onboard vessels, such as entanglement in deck winches and other machinery. This type of fatality occurred most often in the Gulf of Mexico. To assess the impact of fatal and nonfatal injuries involving deck winches in the Southern shrimp fleet during 2000–2011, CDC analyzed data from its Commercial Fishing Incident Database and the U.S. Coast Guard. This report summarizes the results of that analysis.

Predictors of Personal Flotation Device (PFD) use Among Workers in the Alaska Commercial Fishing Industry
Safety Science: March 2013 / 53: 177-185

Occupational Fatalities in Alaska: Two Decades of Progress, 1990-1999 and 2000-2009
Journal of Safety Research: February 2013 / 44 (Special Issue): 105-110

Worker Satisfaction with Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) in the Fishing Industry: Evaluations in Actual Use
Applied Ergonomics: July 2012 / 43(4): 747-752

Commercial Fishing Deaths – United States, 2000-2009
Journal of the American Medical Association: 2010 / 304(13): 1437-1439
This article describes the NIOSH commercial fishing surveillance system and methods used to summarize commercial fishing fatality statistics from 2000-2009. Commercial fishing fatalities are examined by location, fishery type, and cause.

Commercial Fishing Deaths – United States, 2000-2009
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: 2010 / 59(27): 842-845
This article describes the NIOSH commercial fishing surveillance system and methods used to summarize commercial fishing fatality statistics from 2000-2009. Commercial fishing fatalities are examined by location, fishery type, and cause.

Occupational Fatalities in the United States Commercial Fishing Industry, 2000-2009
Journal of Agromedicine: 2010 / 15(4): 343-350
This article describes the distribution and causes of occupational fishing fatalities in the US from 2000-2009. The highest risk fisheries in the US are identified, and recommendations for prevention measures are discussed.

A Persistent High Human Cost of Protein: Commercial Fishing and Aquaculture
Journal of Agromedicine: 2010 / 15(4): 335-336
This editorial introduces and summarizes the special issue of the Journal of Agromedicine, which presents a collection of articles on the various hazards of commercial fishing in the United States, as well as articles on the rapidly expanding seafood farming industry.

Commercial Fishing Fatalities – California, Oregon, and Washington, 2000-2006
Journal of the American Medical Association: 2008 / 3000(13): 1510-1511
This article describes the distribution of commercial fishing fatalities on the West Coast from 2000-2006, and provides an analysis of the causal and contributing factors for fatal events.

Commercial Fishing Fatalities – California, Oregon, and Washington, 2000-2006
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: 2008 / 57(16): 426-429
This article describes the distribution of commercial fishing fatalities on the West Coast from 2000-2006, and provides an analysis of the causal and contributing factors for fatal events.

Reducing Commercial Fishing Deck Hazards with Engineering Solutions for Winch Design
Journal of Safety Research: 2008 / 39 (2), 231-235
This article describes the deck hazards present on commercial fishing vessels, and the development of emergency stop engineering design to provide entanglement protection from a capstan winch.

Fatal Falls Overboard on Commercial Fishing Vessels in Alaska
American Journal of Industrial Medicine: December 2007 / 50:962-968
This article describes the problem of falls overboard in Alaska and discusses possible ways to reduce the risk factors.

Hooked on Safety: Using Public Health Methods to Prevent Accidents in Alaska
Northwest Public Health: 2006 / 23(2):6-7, 24
This article describes the use of the public health model to address occupational safety problems in Alaska, including commercial fishing. This model includes using surveillance systems and summarizing data to describe the problem; collaborating with agencies, workers, and industry; using data to drive program priorities, starting with the most injurious events; and developing tailored prevention strategies and practical recommendations for each problem.

Is it Safe on Deck? Fatal and Non-Fatal Workplace Injuries among Alaskan Commercial Fishermen
American Journal of Industrial Medicine: December 2001 / 40:693-702
Fishing boats are hazardous working environments, and this paper describes injuries that occur on the dock or on the fishing vessel. Data from fishing fatalities and non-fatal injuries between 1991-1998 show that there were 60 workplace deaths unrelated to vessel loss and there were 574 hospitalized injuries.

Improving Safety in the Alaskan Commercial Fishing Industry
International Journal of Circumpolar Health: November 2001 / 60(4):705-713
This article examines the effectiveness of the safety measures required by the U.S. Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act (CFIVSA), in reducing the high fatality rate of Alaska’s commercial fishermen. During 1991-1998, there was a significant (p<0.001) decrease in Alaskan commercial fishing deaths.

Alaska’s Model Program for Surveillance and Prevention of Occupational Injury Deaths
Public Health Reports: 1999 / 114:550-558
This article discusses Alaska’s Model Program for surveillance and prevention of occupational injury deaths, and the usefulness of a collaborative approach to safety programming in reducing the mortality rate in Alaska’s helicopter logging and commercial fishing industry.

Preventing Commercial Fishing Deaths in Alaska
Occupational and Environmental Medicine: October 1999 / 56(10):691-695
This article evaluates the effectiveness of the U.S. Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 in reducing the high occupational death rate (200/100,000/year in 1991-1992) among Alaska’s commercial fishermen. During 1991-8, there was a significant (p < 0.001) decrease in deaths in Alaska related to commercial fishing.

Preventing Death in Alaska’s Commercial Fishing IndustryExternal
International Journal of Circumpolar Health: 1998 / vol:57 Suppl 1 pg:503-9
This article describes efforts to reduce the remarkably high occupational fatality rate (200/100,000/year in 1991-1992) among Alaska’s commercial fishing workers. Specific measures tailored to prevent drowning in vessel capsizings and sinkings in Alaska’s commercial fishing industry have been successful so far. During 1991-1994, there was a substantial decrease in Alaskan commercial fishing-related deaths.

Drowning in Alaskan Waters
Public Health Reports: 1996 / 111(6):531-535
This article discusses the patterns associated with drowning deaths in Alaska. The incidence rate for drowning in Alaska at the time of this study was 20 drownings per 100,000 population per year, a rate that was 10 times higher than the overall US rate. The study found that commercial fishermen and young Alaska Native males were at highest risk for drowning deaths.

Other Literature

Fall Protection Safety Fact Sheet- Commercial Fishing Cdc-pdf[PDF – 1 MB]External
OSHA Fact Sheet discusses the unique fall hazards encountered by working on commercial fishing vessels and safe fall protection practices.

Confined Space Safety on Commercial Fishing Vessels Cdc-pdf[PDF – 189 KB]External
OSHA Fact Sheet DSG 6/2011
This fact sheet outlines the dangers confined spaces pose to workers on commercial fishing vessels when not properly identified, tested and ventilated.

Hazards during the Repair and Maintenance of Refrigeration Systems on Vessels Cdc-pdf[PDF – 5.8 MB]External
OSHA Fact Sheet  – OSHA Publication #3836 2011
This fact sheet describes the dangers associated with the repair and maintenance of refrigeration systems on vessels and the possible exposure to ammonia and halocarbons.

Improving Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Through Collaboration Cdc-pdf[PDF – 4 MB]External
The Coast Guard Journal of Safety and Security at Sea, Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council: 2009 / 66(1): 38-44
This article describes the impact of safety legislation and regulations on the Bering Sea/Aleutian Island crab fleet. The development of the voluntary dockside exam program, the At the Dock Stability and Safety Compliance Check program, and BSAI crab rationalization program are described, along with impact on vessel loss and fatalities.

An Evaluation of Quota-based Management Systems in Alaska Cdc-pdf[PDF – 163 KB]External
North Pacific Research Board Project 533 Final Report: November 2007
This study systematically assesses whether safety improvements occurred after quota-based management systems were established in Alaskan halibut/sablefish and Pollock fisheries. Results show a statistically significant decline in rates of fatalities and search and rescue missions for halibut/sablefish fishermen after implementation of Individual Fishing Quotas, as well as a decline in non-fatal injury rates.

NIOSH Testimony on Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety by J. Lincoln
Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, United States House of Representatives. 110th Congress 1st Session (April 25, 2007).

All Hands on Deck: Improving Deck Safety on Commercial Fishing Vessels
The Coast Guard Journal of Safety and Security at Sea, Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council: March 2007 / 64(1):29-31
This article describes the importance of deck safety for commercial fishermen, and the development of a NIOSH led safety solution to address this hazard.

Deck Safety for Crab FishermenCdc-pdfExternal
Jensen Maritime Consultants, Inc.: 2002-2003
This booklet was written by Jensen Maritime Consultants with input and funding from NIOSH researchers at the Alaska Pacific Regional Office. The goal of this booklet is to share ideas for safety improvements that fishermen can make to reduce injuries on their boats, increase productivity, and reduce downtime.

Lockout/TagoutCdc-pdfExternal
Jensen Maritime Consultants, Inc.: No Date
This brochure was produced by Jensen Maritime Consultants with support from NIOSH. The goal of this brochure is to encourage commercial fishermen to protect themselves using a lockout/tagout program, a program that ensures that hazardous machinery and energy is properly shut off before maintenance or service work is conducted.

Page last reviewed: July 20, 2017