Session 4B – Commercial Fishing and Processing Health and Safety Surveillance Informing Intervention Development

Monday, June 11, 3:30pm – 5:00pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1046

Samantha Case, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Erika Scott, Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety; Laurel Kincl, Viktor Bovbjerg, and Jasmine Nahorniak, Oregon State University; Laura Syron and David Sweet, NIOSH (Presentation slides).


Commercial fishing is of one of the most dangerous industries in the United States, yet nonfatal injuries, health outcomes and vessel casualties are not adequately monitored. Likewise, injury surveillance of offshore seafood processors has not been conducted. The lack of complete data is an impediment to prioritizing safety and health interventions. Complementary National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and NIOSH-supported efforts are currently underway around the United States to address this gap in surveillance and to translate findings into practice.

This panel will discuss approaches and coordination by different research teams to include additional data sources to determine injury and illness patterns used to inform targeted prevention development. The panel will culminate with examples of engineering and administrative interventions based on hazards identified through the surveillance.

Knowledge of fatalities in the U.S. fishing industry used to be largely limited to counts and rates of crewmember deaths. The need to understand hazards and risk factors prompted NIOSH to develop the Commercial Fishing Incident Database (CFID) in 2007. CFID tracks all work-related fatalities due to traumatic injury nationwide, detailing characteristics about the event, as well as the fishermen and vessels involved. Surveillance is conducted through manual review and abstraction of various source documents. As a robust fatality surveillance system, CFID has been used successfully to identify fishery-specific hazards and solutions to protect fishermen. However, given the time-intensive process required to conduct surveillance activities, CFID currently lacks information on nonfatal injuries and illnesses.

In the US Northeast, researchers at the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety in Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (NEC) are piloting the capture of nonfatal fishing injury data using pre-hospital care reports (PCR). NEC researchers have developed a keyword search algorithm that scans and selects cases based on narrative text. These cases are manually reviewed to make a final determination. The dataset that results from this review will be used to streamline the identification and coding process using Bayesian methodology. These techniques have broad application for extracting data from other narrative text sources.

In the Pacific Northwest, we are expanding surveillance by incorporating multiple sources of data. From our research on non-fatal injuries in commercial fishing, we found different hazards than with fatal injuries. Data from NIOSH CFID, other US Coast Guard reports, marine insurance claims, and state trauma registries are being combined in a relational database to characterize commercial fishing and vessel safety and health information. The development of an advanced database using SQL server allows for web-based entry and data downloads for all commercial fishing incident types and improves accuracy and consistency. The design and variables are a collaborative effort with NIOSH and promote the sustainability of the system. The goal is to provide flexible and scalable approaches to surveillance, which will inform and evaluate risk mitigation efforts.

In Alaska, NIOSH researchers are evaluating the utility of three data sources for conducting surveillance of nonfatal injuries and illnesses among commercial fishermen, including: US Coast Guard reports, Alaska Fishermen’s Fund claims, and Alaska Trauma Registry cases. Probabilistic linkage methods will be used to identify any overlapping cases between data sources. Following linking, incidence rates by fleet will be calculated, patterns of incident characteristics and circumstances described, and modifiable hazards identified. As part of this surveillance effort, a project investigating traumatic injuries among offshore seafood processors identified that injury to their upper extremities was an area of concern. Many injuries among processors were caused by contact with processing equipment and boxes of frozen product, including while handling the product in the freezer hold and during offload.

NIOSH engineers are working to translate research findings into practice for the Alaskan commercial fishing and seafood processing industries. Based on analyses of nonfatal injury surveillance data and company claims data, the most hazardous areas to workers were identified as handling frozen fish in the freezer hold and while offloading. Further results from the nonfatal injury analyses, and how they guide the development of safety interventions will be shown. Preliminary safety interventions will be presented, focusing on engineering and administrative controls.

These projects address gaps in both surveillance outcomes and methods, and provide flexible, scalable approaches to injury surveillance, which can be used by companies, vessel owners, Coast Guard and marine safety advocates to implement and evaluate injury prevention efforts.


<Previous Session     (Back to Program Page)     Next Session>