Vol 66, No 4 (2015)
Original article
Published online: 2015-12-22

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Reported traumatic injuries among West Coast Dungeness crab fishermen, 2002–2014

Samantha Case, Viktor Bovbjerg, Devin Lucas, Laura Syron, Laurel Kincl
DOI: 10.5603/IMH.2015.0041
Pubmed: 26726891
IMH 2015;66(4):207-210.


Background: Commercial fishing is a high-risk occupation. The West Coast Dungeness crab fishery has a high fatality rate; however, nonfatal injuries have not been previously studied. The purpose of this report was to describe the characteristics of fatal and nonfatal traumatic occupational injuries and associated hazards in this fleet during 2002–2014.

Materials and methods: Data on fatal injuries were obtained from a surveillance system managed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Data on nonfatal injuries were manually abstracted from Coast Guard investigation reports and entered into a study database. Descriptive statistics were used to characterise demographics, injury characteristics, and work processes performed.

Results: Twenty-eight fatal and 45 nonfatal injuries were reported between 2002 and 2014 in the Dungeness crab fleet. Most fatalities were due to vessel disasters, and many nonfatal injuries occurred on-deck when fishermen were working with gear, particularly when hauling the gear (47%). The most frequently reported injuries affected the upper extremities (48%), and fractures were the most commonly reported injury type (40%). The overall fatality rate during this time period was 209 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers and the rate of nonfatal injury was 3.4 per 1,000 full-time equivalent workers.

Conclusions: Dungeness crab fishermen are at relatively high risk for fatal injuries. Nonfatal injuries were limited to reported information, which hampers efforts to accurately estimate nonfatal injury risk and understand fishing hazards. Further research is needed to identify work tasks and other hazards that cause nonfatal injuries in this fleet. Engaging fishermen directly may help develop approaches for injury prevention.  

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