Utility of a Work Process Classification System for characterizing non-fatal injuries in the Alaskan commercial fishing industry

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  • Background. The US commercial fishing industry is hazardous, as measured by mortality data. However, research on non-fatal injuries is limited. Non-fatal injuries constitute the majority of occupational injuries and can result in workers' lowered productivity and wages, lost quality of life, and disability. In the United States, a Work Process Classification System (WPCS) has previously been applied in Alaskan freezer-trawl and freezer-longline fleets to identify causes of injuries and specific hazards, but not to other fishing fleets. Objectives. This descriptive epidemiologic study aimed to explore the application and modification of the WPCS in multiple Alaskan fleets, characterize non-fatal occupational injuries in these fleets, and identify work processes that could be targeted for further investigation and future injury prevention efforts. Design. Traumatic, non-fatal injuries on-board Alaskan commercial fishing vessels were identified through United States Coast Guard investigative reports. Characteristics of injuries, as well as worker characteristics, were analysed. Injuries were coded using the WPCS. Results. We successfully utilized the WPCS to code non-fatal injury cases (n = 136). The most frequent main work processes associated with non-fatal injuries included: on-board trawlers, handling frozen fish and processing the catch; on-board vessels using pot/trap gear, handling the gear and shooting/setting the gear; on-board longliners, traffic on board and hauling the gear; and on-board processor vessels, processing the catch, other work with the catch, and handling frozen fish. Conclusions. The study confirmed that a WPCS can be applied to multiple Alaskan fleets to identify hazardous tasks. Hazards were unique for each vessel gear type. Future injury prevention efforts should target work processes associated with the most frequent and most severe injuries. Future studies should establish time estimates for work processes in order to determine risk estimates. Efforts to improve non-fatal injury reporting, especially on smaller commercial fishing vessels, should be undertaken.
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  • Keywords: Alaska, commercial fishing, occupational safety, work process, non-fatal injuries
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  • Syron, L. N., Lucas, D. L., Bovbjerg, V. E., Bethel, J. W., & Kincl, L. D. (2016). Utility of a Work Process Classification System for characterizing non-fatal injuries in the Alaskan commercial fishing industry. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 75, 30070. doi:10.3402/ijch.v75.30070
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  • 75
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