Agriculture, forestry and fishing

Injuries in commercial crab fishing underreported: study

Corvallis, OR – Nonfatal injuries suffered by commercial Dungeness crab fishermen on the West Coast likely are underreported, according to a study from Oregon State University.

Researchers found that 28 fatalities and 45 injuries occurred in commercial fishing for Dungeness crab from 2002 to 2014. Fatalities were recorded by NIOSH, while the injuries were reported to the Coast Guard.

The fatality rate for the fleet (209 per 100,000 full-time workers) is several times higher than the national rate for commercial fishing, while its injury rate (3.4 per 1,000 full-time workers) is much lower than rates in other commercial fishing, according to a university press release.

Most of the deaths (about 71 percent) occurred during vessel disasters, including boats capsizing or sinking, the release states. Other fatalities were from drowning or falling overboard. The most common type of injury was fractures (40 percent), followed by hypothermia, cuts, and amputations of fingers or toes.

Injuries most often affected upper extremities (48 percent), and many injuries occurred when workers were handling gear on-deck, especially when hauling it (47 percent), according to the study abstract.

“Fatal injuries are tracked in a national system, but nonfatal injuries are not,” Laurel Kincl, assistant professor of environmental and occupational health and safety in the university’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, said in the release. “We knew there was likely underreporting, but we had no idea how low the injury numbers were until now.”

Additional research is necessary to identify work duties and other hazards that lead to nonfatal injuries, the abstract states.

The study was published online Dec. 22 in the journal International Maritime Health.

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