Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Distant-water tuna fishing crews at high risk of injury, death: report

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Washington – Workers in distant-water tuna fishing fleets face a greater risk of death and injury than workers in almost all other types of fishing fleets, according to a new report from NIOSH.

The U.S. Coast Guard requested the study, which examined deaths and injuries that occurred during a six-year span in the U.S. Distant Water Tuna Fleet.

DWTF is a group of commercial fishing vessels that operate in remote parts of the Pacific Ocean, making it difficult to conduct medical evacuations or search-and-rescue operations. Fourteen workers were killed and 20 were injured from 2006 to 2012, during which time the fleet increased to 39 vessels from 14, the report states.

Six of the fatalities were caused by falls overboard, while two occurred after the vessel flooded and capsized. Other causes included worn or overloaded cables, asphyxiation, and head trauma after a frozen 80-pound tuna struck a worker in the head during off-loading.

The work-related mortality rate in the fleet was 226 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers for 2006-2012. The average workplace fatality rate is 3.2, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

NIOSH’s safety recommendations include having each worker wear a personal flotation device and close-toe footwear at all times while on deck.