Development of a Surveillance Strategy to Guide Injury Prevention Efforts in the Washington Commercial Fishing Industry

Principal Investigator: June Spector, MD, MPH
Associate Professor, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences
University of Washington

Washington State MAAF 2011-2013

Fishing is among the most hazardous occupations with a fatality rate 60 times higher than the average rate for civilian workers in the United States. Non-fatal fishing injuries are also prevalent and associated with substantial morbidity for this workforce. This project responded to a pressing need to examine non-fatal fishing injuries data in order to identify areas where interventions are most needed to prevent injuries. The goals of this research project were to develop methods for 1) characterizing non-fatal fishing injuries in WA using existing data sources, and 2) effectively disseminating this information to key fishing stakeholders.

In collaboration with commercial fishing leaders and researchers at NIOSH, PNASH conducted an exploratory project to build new agreements with a variety of data sources (insurers, clinics, hospitals) and develop a system to characterize non-fatal injuries and intervention opportunities. Two data sources offered the UW researchers enough information to analyze: the US Coast Guard’s (USCG) database (termed MISLE) and the database of a Seattle-based insurance claims adjuster. They were able to use these sources to describe non-fatal injury data for Washington-based commercial fishers.

In this exploratory review, analysts found:

  • The most common injuries occur to workers on deck.
  • Wrists and hands were the most common anatomical sites of injury in both data sources.
  • Wrist and hand injuries frequently appear to be due to crush injuries, particularly during cargo handling operations, particularly when moving cases of frozen fish.

These findings suggest that hand-crush protection may prevent significant numbers of injuries, but specifics about the activities leading to injury were not available.

“We hope our results will motivate stakeholders in commercial fishing to organize a central database for non-fatal injury collection”
– June Spector, PI.

The research methods developed in this project are currently being applied in additional nonfatal injury surveillance research using the US Coast Guards MISLW database.

Partners and Advisories
NIOSH, Western States Division
U.S. Coast Guard
American Seafoods Company
Trident Seafoods
NPFVOA Vessel Safety Program
Servco Insurance Services
CPR Management Services

Final Report - Development of a Surveillance Strategy to Guide Injury Prevention Efforts in the North Pacific Commercial Fishing Industry