NIOSH releases regional data on commercial fishing fatalities

NIOSH releases regional data on commercial fishing fatalities Photo: lena1, Pixabay

NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has recently released a series of updated commercial fishing fatalities summaries analyzing current trends and identifying hazards in Alaska, West Coast, East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

The results of the analysis suggest that while deaths from commercial fishing declined across the nation, persistent and preventable incidents persist to be a problem for the industry.

The summaries also highlight new areas where prevention efforts should focus research and resources.

In 2010, the agency published an analysis of commercial fishing fatalities due to traumatic injury from 2000-2009. These new documents (2010-2014) focus on current regional hazards related to causes such as vessel disasters, fatal falls overboard, and on-board injuries. The summary contains regional and fishery-specific statistics and tailored safety recommendations.

The updated summaries also include new fatality rate calculations, allowing for better comparison with rates in other industries.

“While there is progress being made to reduce risk, and save lives, and that progress is cause for celebration, much more can and should be done to further prevent loss of life in this important industry,” said NIOSH Epidemiologist Devin Lucas, Ph.D., lead for NIOSH Commercial Fishing safety.

“For example, the data show crewmembers on fishing vessels continue to fall overboard and drown because they were not wearing personal flotation devices (PFD). NIOSH recommends that every deckhand wear a PFD while working on deck.”

Commercial fishing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. During 2000-2015, commercial fishermen were 29 times more likely to be killed on the job than the average U.S. workers. This recent analysis found for the decades 2005-2014, the three deadliest fisheries in the country were all on the East Coast.

“The good news is that fishing does not have to be a deadly occupation. Certain fishing fleets and fishing companies have given immense attention to risk reduction and operate year after year with no fatalities. These positive examples show that fishing can be done safely when resources and priorities are focused on that goal,” said Dr. Lucas. “We hope the summaries will cause vessel owners, operators and crewmembers to recognize hazards on their own vessels and then make simple and practical changes that will potentially save lives.”

More information is available on NIOSH’s fishing safety topic page