Researchers Call For Changes in Processing, Handling to Reduce Injuries

A new research report from Oregon State University says many
injuries aboard freezer-trawlers and freezer-longliner vessels could be prevented
by changes in the processing and handling of fish.
“We’ve drilled down to such a detailed level in the injury data
that we can actually address specific hazards and develop prevention strategies,”
said Devin Lucas, of the Alaska Pacific office of the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health.
The study is the first scientific assessment of the risk of fishing
on freezer-trawlers and freezer-longline vessels, both of which process fish onboard.
The vessels had reputations for being among the most dangerous in commercial fishing,
in part because of a few incidents that resulted in multiple fatalities. Lucas said
an analysis of 12 years of injury data showed that the rate of injury on freezer-trawlers
was actually about the same as the national average for commercial fishing, while
the rate aboard freezer-longliners was about half the national average.
Most injuries in the freezer-trawler fleet occurred in the factories
and freezer holds, while the most common injuries in the freezer-longliner fleet
occurred on deck while working the fishing gear, Lucas said. Injuries from processing
and handling fish were also common on the longliners, the research showed.
Methods used in the research can now be applied to other commercial
fishing industries to identify safety issues and pinpoint areas for prevention,
said study co-author Laurel Kincl, an assistant professor of environmental and occupational
health and safety at OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences.
Kincl said researchers are hoping to build from this research
and explore other fishing related injuries and prevention strategies. The Dungeness
crab industry is one area that may be explored and another is land-based fish processing,
she said.
Additional authors of the study included Jennifer Lincoln of
NIOSH, and Viktor E. Bovbjerg and Adam J. Branscum, associate professors in the
College of Public Health and Human Sciences at OSU.

Their research findings, supported by NIOSH and OSU, were published
recently in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.