Vol 67, No 2 (2016)
Original article
Published online: 2016-06-28

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The workload of fishermen: a cross sectional survey among Danish commercial fishermen

Helle Østergaard, Jørgen Riis Jepsen, Gabriele Berg-Beckhoff
Pubmed: 27364175
IMH 2016;67(2):97-103.


Background: Fishery has always been perceived as a physically demanding industry of a manual character. In recent years the physical work environment has developed positively and consequently the current situation in not fully described in the existing literature. This study aims to describe the work environment of Danish fishermen with regard to their physical workload and ergonomic factors.

Materials and methods: A cross sectional study was performed on a random sample of active Danish commercial fishermen (response rate: 28%) by means of a questionnaire on demographic and self-reported occupational and health data. Questions covering the physical workload were related to seven different work situations and a score summing up the workload was developed for the analysis of the relative impact on different groups of fishermen.

Results: Almost all fishermen (96.2%) were familiar to proper lifting techniques but only 55.4% used them in their daily work. Standing work was the most applied work position (81.8%), while repetitive hand and finger movements and twisting and bending in the back were other frequent work situations. Deckhands had higher workload scores than skippers, while crew on Danish seiners had higher workload scores than fishermen in other vessel types.

Conclusions: Despite improved work environment in the Danish fishing industry, fishermen still experience high levels of workload and suboptimal ergonomic conditions, which are known to cause pain and impair musculoskeletal health. To address the specific areas of fishing with the highest workload, future investments in assistive devices to ease the demanding work and reduce the workload, should particularly address deckhands and less mechanized vessels.  

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