Session 8D – Safety and Survival Training in New England: Program Design, Research, and Evaluation

Wednesday, June 13, 10:45am–12:15pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1043

Ed Dennehy, Luis Catala, Gretchen Biesecker, and J.J. Bartlett, Fishing Partnership Support Services (FPSS) (Presentation slides).


Ground fishermen are 37 times more likely to die on the job than policemen, and New England’s waters are among the most dangerous in the country. Safety and Survival Training can be life- saving for everyone on a boat; research from Alaska shows that their fishing industry became significantly safer over the past decade following the implementation of a safety training program (Lincoln, 1999). Fishing Partnership Support Services (FPSS) offers free one-day survival training programs and gives fishermen the chance to learn from Coast Guard-Certified Fishing Vessel Safety Instructors in these vital modules: Man-Overboard Procedures; Fire Fighting; Flooding & Pump Operation; Flares & EPIRBS; Survival Suits; Life Raft Equipment; Helicopter Hoist Procedures; and Opioid Awareness and Basic First Aid. Increasing safety, thus reducing accidents and deaths, improves the economic stability of fishing families. This reduces the burden on the health safety net; families are more likely to avoid financial ruin when a member of their household is not subject to a serious injury or death.

This panel will share how Safety and Survival Training are conducted by FPSS in New England, as well as the program evaluation we are conducting in partnership with external researchers, to learn and improve this program and its impact. Four presentations will provide a holistic window into our work.

8D.1  Background, Curriculum, and Implementation 

Ed Dennehy and Luis Catala, who lead our training programs, will provide historical background and an overview of how safety training is conducted by FPSS. Their presentation will include the origins of safety training in New England, how we approach recruitment, partnerships, curriculum, and innovations to our trainings.

8D.2  Program Evaluation and Research

Gretchen Biesecker, Ph.D., who leads our Evaluation and Research, will share how FPSS evaluates these trainings, including an overview of methods and findings from the past several years of course surveys. Her presentation will spotlight some of our success stories in research, training, and industry collaboration. For instance, she will describe how partnerships with universities and the Northeast Center for Occupational Health and Safety, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and Tufts University, are helping FPSS learn more about safety concerns and preferences among fishermen. For instance, Maggie Brown, a graduate student in Urban and Environmental Policy at Tufts University, is conducting research with FPSS for her masters thesis. Maggie’s thesis includes exploratory case studies of other safety training programs for fishermen with views into outreach strategy, geographic range, and training components. Her investigation will examine the extent to which the most at-risk fishermen and sectors are attending safety trainings or if there are groups of fishermen who are under-represented. An aim of this research is to help FPSS and other groups concerned about the well-being of fishermen enhance and improve targeted outreach.

8D.3  What’s Next? How FPSS and Policy Are Evolving

Last, J.J. Bartlett, FPSS’s President will share what’s next for FPSS and emerging conversations and opportunities at the federal level to address the safety and survival training needs of commercial fishermen. He’ll engage attendees in a Q&A and conversation for us to learn more about the questions and work of others in this area.


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