Life on deck for a commercial fisher can be thrilling. It’s an active lifestyle that bring you out to the water. However, the profession does pose risks that are important to recognize.

The National Institutes of Health(NIH) published a study on commercial fishermen and their most common injuries. Of the 215 surveyed, they found that 83 recalled one or more injuries over the span of a year, leading to a total of 94 injuries.

Contact with marine life – Nearly half of all injuries reported in the NIH study were “penetrating wounds,” like a cut, the majority of which were caused by contact with marine life. Though most fishers wear protective gear including gloves according to the animal they are looking for, the occasional bare skin contact with marine life can quickly cause harm. Louisiana is home to many potentially dangerous creatures, including:

  • Blue crabs with claws and spiny shells
  • Alligators with extreme bites and scaly skin
  • Catfish with bony spines and poison
  • Crawfish with pincers

Injuries from physical labor – In the study, 24% of all injuries were strains and sprains, the majority occurring from moving heavy objects. Half of those were injuries to the back and 26% were to the shoulders.

Vessel crashes, capsizing and sinking – The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that between 2000 and 2014, half of all deaths among commercial fishermen were from vessel disasters. Though engineers, management and crew members must take certain safety precautions, there are unfortunately still lives lost to vessel accidents.

Deck injuries – 12% of injuries leading to death among fishers and many non-fatal injuries happen on deck. The intense ships are home to tension lines, cables, winches, hydraulic haulers, moving objects and wet floors that pose a threat to those on board.

Overboard falls – The second most common cause of death, falling overboard is dangerous, yet in some cases preventable. In the NIOSH study, none of the victims were wearing personal flotation devices, which is a key safety element in an overboard situation. The study also found that being on deck alone and no one witnessing an overboard accident contributed to the fatalities.

Commercial fishing is a no doubt a hazardous profession, but proper safety precautions enforced by employers can have a large impact in protecting workers.