MARITIME WORKER SAFETY

A tugboat assists a cargo container crane ship entering the Port of Long Beach. Image courtesy of Port of Long Beach.

A tugboat assists a cargo container crane ship entering the Port of Long Beach.

Worker climbs onto open-ocean

Worker climbs onto open-ocean "aqua pod" containment system for marine aquaculture.

Commercial crabbing vessel's deck is loaded with stacks of crab pots at the start of the fishing season.

Commercial crabbing vessel's deck is loaded with stacks of crab pots at the start of the fishing season.

US maritime industries are found in nearly every state and employ more than 400,000 workers across the nation. Maritime workers find employment in a variety of fields such as, shipyards, marine terminals, fishing, aquaculture, seafood processing, commercial diving, and marine transportation. These workers face a higher risk of fatality, injury, and illness than the average American worker. In fact, commercial fishing is widely regarded as one of the most dangerous jobs in the U.S. Likewise, the water transportation industry has a fatality rate 4.7 times higher than the rate for all U.S. workers.

There are risks in maritime industries, such as heat and cold stress, or the use of power tools, that are similar to risks seen in general industry. However the marine environment also offers its own challenges and unique hazards. Vessel disasters, water immersion, severe weather, working and living within restricted space, and isolation from home and family are some examples of those challenges.

Many hazards presented by the marine environment can be encountered both on the water and at shipyards or marine terminals – and some hazards are unique to specific maritime industries. For instance, aquaculture workers may face hazards from the use of tractors or all-terrain vehicles, in addition to water borne vessels. Commercial divers are also exposed to a variety of marine hazards, including drowning, respiratory and circulatory complications, and hypothermia, which can be worsened by the number and length of dives, physical demands of diving, and limited visibility underwater. Longshoring work includes moving containers and other heavy loads with the potential to cause serious injury or death if a mistake is made, in addition to other general maritime hazards.

NIOSH accomplishes safety and health research in maritime industries through the Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies, which is a virtual center that serves as a hub for intramural and extramural researchers.

NIOSH has developed web pages on a wide variety of workplace hazards, including many that are present in maritime industries. While most are not focused specifically on maritime industries, the exposures are similar across multiple worksites. The following directory of relevant NIOSH pages has been organized into six general hazard categories (below).

Industry Specific Information

These links contain industry specific information on safety and workplace hazards. (This list of topics and information will grow as NIOSH conducts research with specific maritime industry sectors.)

Center for Maritime Safety and Health Studies – https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/programs/cmshs/default.html

Commercial Fishing – https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/fishing/

Page last reviewed: December 28, 2017