Session 7C – Safer and Healthier Workplaces in Aquaculture

Wednesday, June 13, 9:00am–10:30am, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1045

This is part one of a two part session. Part two will be in Session 8C

Trine Thorvaldsen, SINTEF Ocean; Trond Kongsvik, NTNU Samfunnsforskning; Ingunn Marie Holmen, SINTEF Ocean; Mariann Sandsund, SINTEF Technology and Society


Aim of the workshop: We will present results from the ongoing research project, “Safer operations and workplaces in fish farming” and discuss findings in the Norwegian context with conference participants from other institutions and countries.

Background: The aquaculture industry has grown to become one of the most important industries in Norway. Atlantic salmon is produced and exported worldwide and the production has a potential to increase in the years to come. Employees at the fish farms have the 2nd most risk exposed occupation in Norway according to accident statistics. Research aimed to provide means to reduce risks and improve workers’ health and safety is therefore needed. The ongoing project focuses on the following topics: Workers perceptions of health, safety and work environment (HSE), measurements of workload and organization of safety (OHS management systems), as a basis for developing mitigating measures.

Part one (session 7C)

Three presentations from the project will be given in part one of the workshop.

Part two (session 8C)

In part two of the workshop we will focus on group discussions related to the following questions:

  • What are the main challenges related to working environment and safety in aquaculture in different national contexts?
  • Which measures may improve conditions for aquaculture workers worldwide?
  • What can we learn from each other?
  • How can we utilize the knowledge from the Norwegian context to provide safer and healthier workplaces for workers in aquaculture worldwide?
  • In what areas do we need more research and knowledge?

For any questions, please contact: Trine Thorvaldsen (


Abstracts for part one presentations:

7C.1  A study of employees’ perceptions of interactions between work and health in the Norwegian fish farming industry – Trine Thorvaldsen, Ingunn M. Holmen and Trond Kongsvik

Background and objective: Employees in the Norwegian aquaculture industry, who work at fish farms, may be exposed to several hazards in their work environment. Yet there are few studies and knowledge of interaction between work and health in this industry. The aim of the study was to gain more knowledge on workers perception on this topic.

Methods: A telephone survey amongst 447 employees was conducted during the fall of 2016. The survey focused on employees’ perceptions of work and health, exposures, health complaints, reasons for sick leave as well as worries.

Results: The respondents were operators at the fish farms (n=258), managers at the fish farms (n=110), service vessel crew members (n=60) or had other positions in the companies (n=19). Overall, 84.5 percent report that their health is good or very good. A total of 97 percent are satisfied at work always or most of the time. The main reason for this is a good work environment and good colleagues. The study identifies musculoskeletal problems as the main work-related health complaint. Pain in the neck, shoulder, arms, back and hands are most common. Musculoskeletal problems are also the main reason for work-related sick leave and worry that the work may affect their health negatively in the future. Acute injuries is the second most common reason for sick leave and worry. Many workers (76 percent) also report that they or their colleagues have experienced near accidents (events that may have caused injuries) during the last two years.

Conclusions: In order to improve employees’ health and reduce work-related sick leave the aquaculture industry, including the technology suppliers, must prioritize safety measures aimed at preventing musculoskeletal strain as well as accidents.


7C.2  Work strain, work environment and thermophysiological responses of fish farmers in the Norwegian aquaculture industry – a field study – Mariann Sandsund, Ingunn Marie Holmen, Øystein Wiggen, Hilde Færevik (Presentation slides).

The physical work environment in the aquaculture industry may be a challenge since workers operate in open sea areas where they may be exposed to wind, rain, snow, waves and currents. The northern winters exacerbate working conditions, with their low temperatures, darkness and icing on gangways and fish cages, while some operations are performed at high physical intensities. Such conditions negatively affect work performance, comfort and health. Few studies have investigated the effect of work strain and environmental factors on the physiology of this occupational group. The objective of this study was therefore to study work strain, exposure to extreme work environments and the thermophysiological responses of fish farm operatives in the Norwegian aquaculture industry.

We employed workplace field studies, in which 10 workers from three fish farms have participated. Work intensity was measured by means of heart rate and accelerometer readings. Thermal stress was quantified by measurements of core temperature using a gastrointestinal temperature pill, while skin temperatures were measured by thermistors. A questionnaire was used to obtain information about overall thermal sensation and thermal comfort as well as self-evaluations of perceived exertion. Environmental conditions (ambient temperature, relative humidity and wind speed) were measured at each work-site by a multi-channel thermometer.

We are still in the process of gathering data, but the preliminary results confirm that workers on fish farms are periodically exposed to high levels of work strain, manifested as increased core temperature and heart-rate when working. A better understanding of work strain and environmental challenges during fish farm operations will help to identify occupational exposure risks in this industry. The results are expected to be of significant value in preventing occupational musculoskeletal and other types of injury and will suggest areas of focus for the implementation of health-promotion measures in the aquaculture industry.

The project, which is financed by the Research Council of Norway (2016-2019) forms part of the project “Safer operations and workplaces in fish farming”.


7C.3  Improving safety management in Norwegian fish farms – Trond Kongsvik, Kristine Størkersen, Ingunn M. Holmen and Trine Thorvaldsen (Presentation slides).

In Norway, aquaculture is the second most dangerous industry when it comes to occupational risk. Our research almost a decade ago discovered conditions not favorable for the safety of the Norwegian fish-farm personnel (Fenstad, Osmundsen, & Størkersen, 2009). For example was fish welfare prioritized over personnel safety (Størkersen, 2012) . Since this, most conditions have changed on Norwegian fish farms, although safety management regulation is the same. It is a profound need for newer research on conditions important for fish farm safety management.

Therefore, we now explore: Which organizational conditions influence safety at Norwegian fish farms, and how can safety management be improved?

The discussion is based on qualitative and quantitative data gathered in 2017; A questionnaire survey involving 135 respondents (management and staff) and interviews and observation of 41 management and fish farm representatives in seven Norwegian aquaculture companies.

Our data give insight in the variation of formal and informal safety management and practices. We will describe and analyze the local organizational conditions, practical safety work, safety cultures, competence, communication, work pressure, organizational learning, formal safety management systems and practical use of the safety management systems. Through this we will get results about organizational conditions favorable (and unfavorable) for personnel safety, and how to achieve these.

The conclusion will lead to low-key suggestions for practical and functional safety management.


Fenstad, J., Osmundsen, T., & Størkersen, K. V. (2009). Fare på merde?: behov for endret sikkerhetsarbeid ved norske oppdrettsanlegg. Trondheim: NTNU Samfunnsforskning, Studio Apertura. [English: Danger on the net-pen? Need for changed safety work at Norwegian fish-farms. Report.]

Størkersen, K. V. (2012). Fish first: Sharp end decision-making at Norwegian fish farms. Safety science, 50(10), 2028-2034.


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