Session 3C – Seafood Processing, Hazards and Interventions

Monday, June 11, 1:45pm -3:15pm, Arts and Administration Building, Room A1045

3C.1  Injury and Illness in Alaska’s Onshore Seafood Processing Industry: An Analysis of Workers’ Compensation Claims, 2014-2015Laura Syron, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH); Laurel Kincl, Oregon State University (OSU); Viktor Bovbjerg, OSU; Devin Lucas, NIOSH (Presentation slides).

Background: Globally, seafood processors are at high risk for musculoskeletal injuries and allergic reactions. Despite the seafood processing industry’s importance in Alaska, limited research has investigated occupational safety and health in Alaskan worksites. This study’s objectives were to use Alaska worker’s compensation claims to estimate the risk of nonfatal injuries and illnesses, determine patterns of incident characteristics and circumstances, and identify modifiable hazards for onshore workers.

Methods: Accepted claims data from 2014–2015 were manually reviewed and coded with the Occupational Injury and Illness Classification System and work activity resulting in the incident. Workforce data were utilized to calculate claim rates per 1,000 workers.

Results: During the two-year study period, 2,889 claims were accepted for nonfatal injuries and illnesses in Alaska’s onshore seafood processing industry. The average annual claim rate was 63 per 1,000 workers.  This rate was significantly higher than the all-industry rate of 44 claims per 1,000 workers (rate ratio = 1.42, 95% CI = 1.37 – 1.48). In the seafood processing industry, the most frequently occurring injuries and illnesses, were: by nature, sprains/strains/tears (993, 36%), contusions (490, 18%), and lacerations/punctures/amputations (349, 13%); by body part, upper extremities (1,212, 43%) and trunk (578, 20%); and by event/exposure, contact with objects and equipment (1,020, 37%%) and overexertion and bodily reaction (933, 34%). Incidents resulting from line production activities (n=818) frequently involved: repetitive motion; overexertion while handling pans, fish, and buckets; and coming into contact with fish, pans, and processing machinery. Incidents resulting from material handling activities (n=495) frequently involved: overexertion while handling boxes/cartons/bags; repetitive motion; and slips/trips/falls.

Conclusions: Hazard control measures should target: (a) repetitive motion, overexertion, and contact with equipment during line production; (b) overexertion due to manual material handling; and (c) slips/trips/falls. Implementing ergonomic solutions to prevent musculoskeletal injuries – especially to workers’ upper extremities – is vital for improving health.


3C.2  A study about the work conditions of the seafood workers in Mundau Lagoon – Maceió, BrazilBianca Farias and Roberto Bartholo, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

The project studied the work situation of the sururu (Mytella falcata) productive chain located in Mundaú Lagoon, Maceió – Alagoas.

The sururu extraction is the main source of income around the Mundaú, about 80% of the people in the region are related to the extraction and processing activities of the seafood. The average income is 520 real (163 dollars) per month. These are the most vulnerable and poor people of the city surrounded by natural, social and technological risks. Precarious housing, lack of basic services, informal employment, drug trafficking and consumption, violence, prostitution and child labor are common aspects of the community daily life.

The tasks involving the sururu´s extraction and processing are very exhausting and unhealthy. Their catch time is very early, usually between 2 and 4 in the morning, because of the competition: who arrives first can extract more. The working day can be from 14 to 16 hours, without weekends or holidays.

Because of the very intense and tiring routine, which mixes heavy activities with minimum moments of rest and precarious and unhealthy working conditions, health problems are constant, in average 67% of workers have already gotten a license due to illness or work accident, averaging 2.17 days without work.

Based on the Ergonomic Analysis of Work there were identified failures in the productive process and proposed improvements. In addition, an ergonomic indicator was built based on the EWA (Ergonomics workplace analysis).

There are 10 phases of work: extraction, first washing, despinicagem (kind of cleaning), boiling in the iron gallon, sieving, second washing, packing, direct sale, stocking and transportation. The results showed that the improvements should be thought from inside and done collectively. It has been identified that the sururu extraction, the despinicagem and the boiling are the biggest problems to the worker’s health.


3C.3  Safety & health interventions on factory trawlersR. Alan Davis, American Seafoods Company (Presentation slides).

While Factory Trawlers are perhaps safer than smaller fishing vessels in many ways, they also come with extra complications. Bigger vessels mean bigger machinery, more power, more moving parts, and more crew, creating additional hazards and variables than smaller operations.

Processing Machinery needs to be guarded.  Maintenance needs to be managed and power sources controlled to prevent accidental activation.  Illnesses need to be mitigated and managed. Tons and Tons of product must be moved safely and of course, if you have 145 crew that means you HOPEFULLY have 1450 fingers to keep out of hazardous places!

In a quick photo montage, we hope to share some of the hazards we face onboard Bering Sea Factory Trawlers and some of the ways we have used ideas from other industries and/or our vessel crew to enhance the safety & welfare of our crew members.

  • Lockout Tagout
  • Emergency Stops
  • Protective Gloves
  • Man Overboard Alarms
  • Crew Safety Meetings
  • Helper Winches
  • Sanitation Stations

All these varied things are individually small pieces, but each plays a vital role in keeping our crew safe & healthy and each plays a role in perhaps the most important aspect of all, our Safety Culture.


3C.4  New Zealand Fishing Industry Safety Framework – Darren Guard, Guard Safety Limited and Marion Edwin, Optimise Ltd.  (Presentation slides).

In New Zealand fishing plays a significant role in the economy – it is our fifth largest export commodity by value, with 3.2% of total exports, whilst employing only 0.7% of the population (Williams, 2017). It is also one of our most dangerous occupations – it has a high average injury and fatality rate relative to our population and other sectors. As in other countries, the factors contributing to fishing injuries include the working conditions on a moving vessel, long hours and time away at sea, drug and alcohol issues and a high tolerance for risk. The New Zealand fishing industry is led by 5 main fishing companies, collectively owning approximately 70% of the New Zealand’s fish quota.

Maritime New Zealand, our maritime regulator, has developed legislative tools aimed at bringing fatality and injury rates down. Thus we have some recent and significant changes in the safety management systems applying to vessel operators. This, along with the introduction of new health and safety legislation (the Health and Safety at Work Act, 2015) has put greater compliance requirements on commercial vessels.

An overview of New Zealand’s safety management and compliance systems for vessel operators – targeting reduced harm for the workforce – will be presented and discussed. While those in the industry do accept they need to be safer, the associated documentation and processes may be daunting. Our challenge is to present manageable solutions to complex maritime safety problems to enable all fishers to return healthy and well from every trip.


Williams, J. (2017). Commercial Fishing a Significant Contributor to New Zealand Economy. accessed 15 November 2017.


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