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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program 3 The Commercial Fishing Safety Record This chapter analyzes the safety record of fishing industry vessels to better understand the nature, scope, and causes of safety problems and to provide a basis for assessing these problems in subsequent chapters. Safety problems include both vessel casualties (incidents involving actual or potential damage to fishing industry vessels) and also personnel casualties (fatalities and injuries). A basic issue is whether safety problems affecting fishing industry vessels and fishermen are significant enough to warrant government intervention beyond existing and planned safety regulations, voluntary efforts to improve safety, and provision of search and rescue (SAR) services. DATA FOR ASSESSING FISHING INDUSTRY VESSEL SAFETY Accurate historical and current data on vessels, fishermen, professional experience, hours and nature of exposure, and safety performance of personnel and equipment are fundamental to assessing safety problems, monitoring results of safety programs, and measuring the effectiveness of safety improvement strategies. Very few data are regularly collected or published on these parameters. The limited data make it difficult to quantify safety problems, determine causal relations, and assess safety improvement strategies. However, the data that are available indicate that significant safety problems exist and that human error, vessel and equipment inadequacies, and environmental conditions all contribute to them.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program SAFETY DATA TERMINOLOGY Vessel Casualties Incidents involving actual or potential damage such as capsizing, foundering, grounding, fires, and loss of propulsion or steering. Vessel casualties do not necessarily result in injury or loss of life. Vessel Total Losses Vessel casualties resulting in the total loss of the vessel. Fatalities Incidents involving loss of life. Vessel-Casualty-Related Fatalities Fatalities resulting from vessel casualties, such as drowning resulting from capsizing. Non-Vessel-Casualty-Related Fatalities Fatalities not resulting from vessel casualties, such as deaths resulting from falling overboard or getting caught in machinery. Injuries Incidents resulting in nonfatal injuries. These may range from minor sprains and cuts to life-threatening injuries. Like fatalities, injuries may or may not be related to vessel casualties. Personnel Casualties Fatalities or injuries. Human Causes Causes of vessel or personnel casualties related to human factors. Vessel Causes Causes of vessel or personnel casualties related to vessels or equipment. Environmental Causes Causes of vessel or personnel casualties related to weather or sea conditions or to other factors affecting the operating environment, such as missing aids to navigation. Fishing Fleet and Work Force Data Detailed information about the composition amd utilization of the national fishing fleet and its work force is vital but not available. Such data are needed to reliably indicate the type and number of vessels and their relationship to vessel inspection, load lines, occupational safety and health regulations, and the way these factors relate to safety performance. Fleet composition figures used in this report are estimates. Fleet data for the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii are better developed than for other regions. Close approximations of fishing vessels active in the West Coast region were determined for this study from landing records, referred to as “fish tickets” (Jacobson et al., 1990), and a fleet profile for Washington State fisheries (Natural Resource Consultants, 1988). For Alaskan fisheries, vessel permit data were provided by the Alaska Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission, Juneau,
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program AVAILABILITY OF FISHING SAFETY DATA Vessel Casualties Coast Guard main casualty (CASMAIN) data are reasonably complete for major vessel casualties (those resulting in significant damage, vessel loss, or fatalities) for documented vessels. Data are incomplete for less-serious incidents on documented vessels. In addition, both major and less-serious vessel casualties may go unreported for undocumented (i.e., state-numbered) vessels. Coast Guard SAR data provide additional information on vessel casualties, but do not discriminate between documented and undocumented vessels. Fatalities CASMAIN data are believed to be fairly complete for fishing vessel fatalities occurring at sea. However, some fatalities occurring close to shore or in inland waters may not be reported. Personnel Injuries Data are insufficient to determine the total number of injuries that occur or injury rates, but limited insurance data provide information on injury patterns. Fishing Vessels The number of vessels documented by the Coast Guard bearing fisheries license endorsements, although variable, can be closely estimated. Their physical condition and actual use in the fishing trade are not monitored. The actual number of vessels bearing state numbers that are engaged in commercial fishing is not known. Limited data are available regionally for vessel usage in commercial fishing and are generally more complete for vessels engaged in West Coast and Alaskan fisheries. Exposure and risk data are not available. Fishermen The number of persons who engage full-time or part-time in commercial fishing is not known, with the exception of those in states such as Alaska where individual commercial or crew licenses are required. Demographic information is very limited. Fishing employment estimates are based on the estimated crew sizes of the estimated number of documented and undocumented vessels used in the fisheries trade. Exposure and risk data are not available. available studies (Coopers and Lybrand, 1990; McDowell et al., 1989), and the committee's regional assessment (Munro, 1990). It appears that more complete data could be developed for Alaskan and North Pacific waters by analyzing and correlating vessel permit records and fish ticket data using automated data processing capabilities available through the Commercial Fisheries Entry Commission. Fish ticket and state license data on vessels categorized as fishing vessel, freezer/canner, or tender/packer could be correlated manually with federal documentation data in the Coast Guard's Marine Safety Information System (MSIS) and records of state vessel numbers (administered in Alaska by the
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program TABLE 3-1 Estimated National Fleet Size and Underway Work Force Length (feet) Number of Vessel Positions Per Vessel Vessel Personel Capacity Documented Vessels 31,000 108,600 26-49 23,400 3 70,200 50-64 3,600 4 14,400 65-78 3,200 5 16,000 79+ 800 10 8,000 Undocumented Vessels 80,000 1.5 120,000 All Vessels 111,000 228,600 Table 3-1 presents the committee's estimates of the 1987 fleet size and a rough estimate of the work force capacity of the fishing fleet if all vessels were under way at one time. The total number of persons working as commercial fishermen in any given year is significantly higher (Chapter 2). The data presented in Table 3-1 are this report's benchmark for comparative analysis of safety data. Crew sizes are very rough estimates based on assumptions. The actual number of persons aboard fishing industry vessels varies greatly. The actual crew size for vessels at least 79 feet long varies from about 4 to 5 for fishing vessels, to 20 to 30 for large catcher/processors, to well over 100 for the largest floating processor. There are no accepted industry averages. However, estimated crew sizes are available for Alaska (McDowell et al., 1989). For this analysis, the average crew size is assumed to be: for undocumented vessels, 1.5; for documented vessels, 3 for 26- to 49-foot vessels, 4 for 50-to 64-foot vessels, 5 for 65- to 78-foot vessels, and 10 for vessels of at least 79 feet. Casualty Data The best available data source about fishing industry vessel casualties is the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) main casualty (CASMAIN) data base. CASMAIN is well administered; however, the available data have various limitations discussed in this chapter and Appendix D. CASMAIN data are based on Coast Guard marine accident reports. Unless otherwise indicated, vessel casualty statistics presented in this report are derived from CASMAIN data for the years
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program PRINCIPAL U.S. COAST GUARD FISHING SAFETY DATA SOURCES CASMAIN The Coast Guard's main casualty (CASMAIN) data base is based on Coast Guard Marine Accident Reports. By law, all incidents are supposed to be reported that result in loss or significant damage to vessels, loss of life, or serious injury. The data base provides information for vessel casualties and personnel casualties (fatalities and injuries). Relatively more information about the vessel, location of the incident, and environmental conditions at the time of the incident is provided for vessel casualties than for personnel casualties. In general, better data are available on safety problems for documented than for undocumented vessels. SAR Data The Coast Guard's SAR data provide information on all SAR events in which Coast Guard forces provided some form of assistance, ranging from simple communications services to extensive surface and air searches. Although SAR data include less information than CASMAIN data, they provide useful additional information on the severity and location of SAR incidents involving commercial fishing vessels, and the general scope and nature of emergency events not meeting CASMAIN reporting thresholds. SEER Data The Coast Guard's Summary Enforcement Event Report (SEER) data are the primary source for the scope of Coast Guard compliance examinations (boardings) of fishing vessels and boating safety violations reported for fishing vessels. 1982 to 1987. CASMAIN data are not presented for 1988 or 1989 because marine accident investigations, data coding, and data entry were still in progress during the study. CASMAIN vessel casualty data are presented only for documented fishing industry vessels because marine accident reports are not available for an undetermined number of casualties involving state-numbered vessels. Data limitations precluded sorting of casualties by vessel employment—fishing, tender operations, or processing. Anecdotal information indicates that the majority of casualties are attributed to fishing operations. Some additional data, covering both documented and state-numbered vessels, are presented from the Coast Guard's SAR data base. CASMAIN, SAR, and other sources used in this study are described in the accompanying box and in Appendix D. Appendix E provides selected additional CASMAIN data tables. Developing reliable casualty rates and analyzing variations by region, fishery, gear type, or other criteria
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program were not feasible with available data. A very rough estimate of casualty rates by vessel length for documented vessels is presented to provide a frame of reference for assessing the relationship of vessel size to safety performance. CASMAIN data disclose that many, but not all, personnel casualties result from or are associated with vessel casualties. However, data on injuries are extremely limited from any source and are insufficient to develop even a rough estimate of personal injury rates aboard fishing vessels. The CASMAIN data base does provide complete enough information on fatalities to estimate fatality rates for both documented and undocumented vessels. Alaska Fishermen's Fund data, while a partial record of injury incidents, nevertheless provide a resource for general characterization of injuries in Alaskan commercial fisheries. Most fishing industry fatalities are not reflected in published occupational injury and illness reports. Because most fishermen are self-employed, are not covered by workmen's compensation, and work aboard vessels with fewer than 11 employees, they are not included in the data collected and published for other industries by the Department of Labor and other federal organizations. The published national data on employment and occupational injury and illness fatalities aggregates fishing industry mortality statistics and rates with agriculture and forestry and covers only employers with 11 or more employees (see Appendix D and Appendix G). National Safety Council (NSC) data also aggregate fishing with agriculture and forestry. These data, based on death certificates, are more complete nationally, but limit estimates to broad aggregations. Thus, occupational data for most personnel casualties attributable to commercial fishing are excluded from the principal sources of data available for comparing fatalities and injuries among industries. Using proportional mortality rates (PMR) for trend analysis and comparing mortalities in fishing with other industries is an alternative, but is currently available only for Washington State residents. PMR is discussed later in this chapter. VESSEL CASUALTIES Table 3-2 summarizes casualties to documented fishing industry vessels for the years 1982 to 1987. Four different measures are used: Number of vessel casualties. There were 6,558 vessel casualties reported, an average of nearly 1,100 annually. Number of vessel total losses. Of the 6,558 casualties to documented vessels, 1,298 (about 20 percent) resulted in total loss of the vessel. On average, more than 200 documented fishing industry vessels were lost each year. Vessel total losses were significantly lower in 1986 and 1987, but the information is insufficient to establish a downward trend. Vessel-casualty-related fatalities. A total of 348 fatalities (more than 50 per year average) resulted from casualties to documented fishing industry
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program TABLE 3-2 Casualties Involving Documented Fishing Industry Vessels: 1982-1987 Year Number of Vessel Casualties Number of Vessel Total Losses Number of Fatalities Associated withVessel Casualties Total Losses Damages (millions of dollars) 1982 983 259 33 93.6 1983 1,203 247 88 68.3 1984 974 241 52 71.0 1985 1,209 241 61 53.3 1986 1,095 151 46 39.5 1987 1,094 159 68 51.8 Total 6,558 1,298 348 377.5 Average 1,093 216 58 62.9 Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data. vessels; another 90 resulted from state-numbered vessel casualties; and 210 fatalities were not related to vessel casualty. Vessel damage. Total damage to documented vessels was $378 million, a loss of over $60 million annually. Total estimated damages were significantly lower during 1985 to 1987, but do not necessarily indicate a downward trend. In assessing safety problems affecting fishing industry vessels, it is important to distinguish between these four measures. Each is important and can provide a different perspective on the nature and causes of vessel casualties. The number of vessel casualties is a measure of how many incidents occurred, regardless of how serious the consequences. The number of vessel total losses is a measure of how many incidents occurred in which the consequence—loss of the vessel—was very serious. Total vessel damages and the number of vessel-casualty-related fatalities measure the dollar and human costs. The total cost of human suffering associated with vessel casualties is considerably higher when personal injuries are considered, but the full scope of this aspect of the safety record cannot be ascertained from the data. Figures for total cost of vessel damages vary greatly, depending on which vessels were involved, the nature of casualties, and how damage estimates were derived. This limits the utility of damage estimates for comparative and trend analyses. Nature of Vessel Casualties Figure 3-1 depicts the nature of vessel casualties for each of the three vessel-related measures—number of casualties, vessel total losses, and fatalities. The data illustrate how greatly the picture of vessel casualties varies, depending on which measure is considered. For example, material failure accounted for
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program FIGURE 3-1 Nature of vessel-related casualties. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data for documented vessels. 36 percent of all vessel casualties, but only 8 percent of vessel total losses and 2 percent of vessel-related fatalities. Foundering or sinking accounted for only 8 percent of all vessel casualties considered together, but 28 percent of vessel total losses and vessel-related fatalities. Capsizing accounted for only 2 percent of vessel casualties and 8 percent of vessel total losses, but 33 percent of vessel-related fatalities. These data demonstrate that no single type of incident stands out as the major safety problem in the commercial fishing industry. Instead, there are differing problems and consequences. Incidents like capsizing occur with less frequency, but have disastrous consequences. Others, such as material failure, may occur more frequently, but the consequences may not be as great. Regional Distribution of Vessel Casualties CASMAIN data disclosed significant regional variations in vessel casualties. (Except where indicated, casualty data for the Great Lakes and Hawaii are aggregated as “other” in regional distributions.) The West Coast region accounted for the greatest share of vessel casualties, vessel total losses, and fatalities (Figure 3-2). The North Atlantic region had the second highest share of vessel casualties, but ranked behind Alaska in vessel total losses and fatalities. There are also significant regional variations in the nature of casualties. For example, collisions account for over 18 percent of vessel total losses in the Gulf of Mexico compared with about 3.4 percent for Alaska, where grounding stood
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program FIGURE 3-2 Regional distribution of vessel-related casualties. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data for documented vessels. out in the data as a major factor. Whatever measure is used, it is clear that vessel casualty problems are not limited to one or two regions. Substantial vessel casualties, vessel total losses, and vessel-casualty-related fatalities occurred in all regions. The consequences of vessel casualties also varied significantly by region. For example, vessel casualties in Alaska were three times as likely to lead to vessel total losses as in the North Atlantic, and resulted in three times as many vessel-related fatalities. However, it is difficult to tell to what extent this may simply reflect a higher reporting rate, or differences in fishing effort, gear, operating environment, and exposure to risk. Significant regional variations in the nature, scope, and consequences of vessel casualties indicate that reasons for these variations need to be identified and seriously considered during development and implementation of safety-improvement strategies and alternatives. Casualty Distribution by Vessel Length Vessel casualties occurred on vessels of all size classes (Figure 3-3). Vessels between 26 and 49 feet accounted for 47 percent of all casualties to documented vessels. However, because larger vessels carry more crew and represent a greater dollar investment, the consequences of casualties tend to be greater. Vessels 79 feet or greater in length accounted for only 12 percent of all casualties and 11 percent of vessel total losses, but they accounted for 24 percent of vessel-related fatalities and 47 percent of vessel damage.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program FIGURE 3-3 Distribution of vessel-related casualties by length. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data for documented vessels. Casualty Distribution by Vessel Type and Usage Casualties may vary by vessel type and usage. This cannot be directly ascertained from CASMAIN and MSIS data because of the absence of the necessary data fields. Although a resource-intensive process, some insight on this dimension could be developed by accessing CASMAIN data and casualty reports where names of vessels of certain types or engaged in certain activities, such as fish processing, are known. For example, a 1983 Coast Guard study used this methodology to determine that, from 1972 through 1982, the frequency of serious fires aboard fish processing vessels was dramatically higher than for other types of fishing industry vessels. During the period, fires led to 77 percent of processor losses but only about 19 percent of all documented vessel losses (USCG, 1983). It is not clear from CASMAIN data whether this anomaly has continued or, if so, to what degree. However, significant variations of this type are indicators that point toward problem areas meriting further attention. Causes of Vessel Casualties The CASMAIN data base includes data on the primary (proximate or most important) cause as well as secondary causes of vessel casualties. Appendix E (Table E-2) provides data on frequency for more than 80 primary causes. Causes were grouped into four broad groups for this report: human, vessel, environmental, and other or unknown causes. Human causes included general causes, such as “operator error,” as well as a variety of specific errors, such
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program FIGURE 3-4 Availability of cause data for vessel-related casualties. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data for documented vessels. as “failed to keep proper lookout.” Vessel causes included various vessel or equipment problems, such as “failed structural materials” and “propulsion failure.” Environmental causes included both “adverse weather or current” and others, like “submerged object.” There are two major limitations to what can be learned from the cause data in the CASMAIN data base. First, the cause data have large gaps in what is known (Figure 3-4). There is a high percentage of “unknown” as the recorded primary cause, especially for vessel total losses and vessel-casualty-related fatalities. This limits the utility of the data, since there is an insufficient basis to establish that the observed distribution of known causes would apply to incidents with unknown causes. Second, the cause data necessarily represent simplifications of circumstances leading to vessel casualties, based on subjective evaluation of complicated chains of events for which few data are available. Because of these limitations, the CASMAIN data provide only rough, but useful, indications of the relative contribution of different factors to safety problems. Figure 3-5 shows that for vessel casualties with known causes, human causes played a role in 40 percent of casualties, 45 percent of total losses, and 61 percent of those related to fatalities. Similarly, where causes were known, vessel causes played a role in more than 62 percent of vessel casualties, 48 percent of total losses, and 40 percent of vessel-casualty-related fatalities. As would be expected, the roles of human and vessel causes differed among incidents (Figure 3-6). Similarly, human causes were the primary cause of 68 percent of the vessel total losses resulting from grounding, but only 6 percent
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program strategies targeting human, vessel, equipment, and environmental factors may be needed to reduce mortality in the commercial fishing industry. Fatality Rates To compare the safety record of commercial fishing with that of other industries and to further examine the relationship between safety and vessel size, the committee estimated fatality rates. This effort was hampered by the absence of reliable data on commercial fishing employment for most fisheries. Estimates from Table 3-1 were used. Because of methodological problems, none of the fatality rates presented are precise estimates. Rates for fatalities associated with undocumented vessels are also presented, but are of limited utility because of uncertainty about actual numbers of vessels and fishermen. The only known facts presented in the tables and figures are the number of fatalities recorded in CASMAIN. The fatality data do not discriminate among functional responsibilities; thus, they reflect all personnel aboard. Coast Guard officials believe that most commercial fishing fatalities are captured in CASMAIN data, principally because Coast Guard policy permits issuance of letters of presumptive death needed to settle estates when remains of fishermen lost at sea are not recovered. The reliability of CASMAIN fatality data could not be evaluated, except in Washington State, where state vital statistics were compared with CASMAIN data as part of the West Coast regional assessment. Nearly all commercial fishing fatalities for Washington State fishermen were reflected in CASMAIN data. Other problems in the analytical technique include the use of estimates of variable reliability, nonavailability of an average fleet size for the period, and the lack of exposure data, which prevents normalizing the data by fishing effort in different fisheries or by vessel or gear categories. One perspective may be obtained by examining the distribution of fatal incidents (i.e., an incident in which at least one person died). While over 53 percent of fatal incidents (231 of 434) were associated with vessels under 50 feet long, fatal incident rates per 1,000 vessels grew substantially with increased vessel length (Figure 3-18). The data revealed that for vessels under 50 feet long, such incidents were more likely to result from a casualty to the vessel. The inverse was evident for vessels at least 65 feet long; fatal incidents not related to a vessel casualty were dramatically higher. The rates suggest that different safety problems resulting in fatal incidents exist for small and large vessels. For example, the higher rate for fatal incidents coincidental with casualties to smaller vessels may indicate a need for survival equipment not typically carried. The substantially higher frequency of non-vessel-casualty-related fatal incidents associated with larger vessels suggests that factors such as occupational safety issues merit attention. Examining the estimated number of fatalities (from all causes) per fatal incident (Figure 3-19) gives another perspective. Since larger vessels have
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program FIGURE 3-18 Commercial fishing fatal incident rates by vessel length. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data for all recorded fatal incidents. higher fatality incident rates and larger crews, the number of fatalities per incident involving such vessels might be expected to be substantially higher. Indeed, when fatalities related and not related to vessel casualties are separated, the average fatality rate per incident increased modestly for vessels at least 65 feet long. The data for the 65- to 78-foot category are skewed by one incident in which there were 13 fatalities. Removing this one incident results in a 2.4 fatalities per incident rate for vessels in this length category. Although the trend is upward for larger vessels, it is not dramatic. Anecdotal information shows that in many cases, some of the crew are rescued, often because there were survival systems on board. An even more striking picture relevant to vessel length emerges when the population of vessels and persons aboard fishing industry vessels is an element of the analysis (Table 3-5). The largest number of vessel-related fatalities, over 50 percent, involved fishing industry vessels under 50 feet. However, the relative number of incidents by vessel length is much greater for larger vessels, with correspondingly higher estimated fatality rates. The higher rates may be partly explained by more hours of exposure to risk than those for inshore boats, due to time in transit and time fished, difficulty in seeking shelter to escape rapidly deteriorating environmental conditions, complex fishing gear, and distance from Coast Guard rescue resources. These factors tend to contrast with the nature of inshore fishing. Even though the data are not available to normalize exposure rates, the marked jump for vessels at least 79 feet long strongly indicates that there is a greater likelihood that persons aboard these
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program FIGURE 3-19 Distribution of fatalities per fatal incident. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data. TABLE 3-5 Estimated Commercial Fishing Fatality Rates (All Fatalities) Vessel Category Total Fatalities Annual Fatalities1 Employment (thousands)1 Annual Fatality Rate per 100,000 Workers1 All Vessels 648 108 229 47 Documented Vessels (feet) 507 85 109 78 26-49 198 33 70 47 50-64 76 13 14 88 65-78 116 19 16 121 79+ 117 20 8 244 Undocumented Vessels 141 24 120 20 1Rounded numbers. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program TABLE 3-6 Selected U.S. Industrial Fatality Rates (Estimated) Industry Annual Fatalities1 Employment (thousands)1 Annual Fatality Rate per 100,000 Workers1 Documented Fishing Industry Vessels 85 109 78 Undocumented Fishing Industry Vessels 24 120 20 All Fishing Industry Vessels 108 229 47 Mining 430 920 47 Construction 2,230 5,940 38 All industries 11,240 106,280 11 1Numbers estimated and rounded. Source: USCG 1982-1987 CASMAIN data. vessels will be involved in a life- or vessel-threatening event than will their counterparts on smaller fishing industry vessels. Comparing fatality rates with those of other industries is severely limited by availability and limited value of data. For example, since many fishermen are on their vessels for extended periods of time when they are not actually engaged in fishing, they are often exposed to operational and occupational hazards for a longer time than workers in other industries are. Exposure data for such dimensions are not available. Nevertheless, the data that are available (Table 3-5 and Table 3-6; Knapp and Ronan, 1990) suggest that fishermen aboard documented vessels perish at extraordinarily high rates and are thus more likely to die on the job than workers in most other industries are. Thus, concern for fishermen's welfare is well founded, considering safety performance within the industry. The aggregate fatality rate presented for U.S. commercial fishing (47 per 100,000 workers) is comparable to the mortality rate (45.8 per 100,000) for commercial fishermen in Canada's Atlantic provinces (Hasselback and Neutel, 1990). Proportional Mortality Rates A different approach for comparing fatality rates among industries, which does not require employment data, is the use of proportional mortality rates (PMR). PMR as a monitoring technique for mortality trends overcomes lack of reliable population-at-risk data by basing comparisons between occupations on the percentage of deaths resulting from occupational causes as a share of total deaths. Milham reports that there is very close correlation between PMR and standardized mortality rates (SMRs) and that this finding has been established through population-at-risk studies in other occupations within Washington State
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program (Samuel Milham, State of Washington Department of Health, personal communication, 1990). PMR has been applied to mortality data recorded on death certificates of fishermen domiciled in Washington State (regardless of the location of death). Residents whose occupation was listed as fisherman had a high incidence of occupational deaths. PMR shows no significant change since the mid-1950s in accidental death trends among state commercial fishermen. Drowning was the predominant cause of accidental death listed on death certificates. Two-thirds of the time, the vessel associated with the death was intact. Only 34 percent of the time did it founder or capsize. Most alcohol-related deaths occurred while vessels were at the dock. However, this finding is biased, because a body must be available for analysis; this often is not the case for fatalities at sea. Milham reports that authorities in Great Britain also apply PMR to the fishing industry with similar findings. PMR ranked occupational mortality of state residents in the following order: blasters and powdermen; loggers; log truck drivers; construction engineers; telephone and power linemen; and fishermen and oystermen. Thus, for Washington State fishermen, PMR discloses that several other occupational fields are somewhat more dangerous, although not by a great deal. From death certificate information, Milham also ascertained that the general locations of fatalities were as follows: in the ocean—30 percent; in sounds or bays—39 percent; in rivers—13 percent (largely associated with tribal fisheries); and in inlets—9 percent. These percentages are consistent with the SAR data presented earlier, which show that a high number of life-threatening events occur inshore and on inland waters. There are limitations to the usefulness of PMR for assessing commercial fishing risks. This methodology aggregates all fishermen as a common group, regardless of where or how often they fish. Occupation information from death certificates is not computer coded for many states, and they usually provide only limited information on circumstances. Furthermore, employment as a casual or part-time commercial fisherman may not be reflected in occupational data on the certificate. Nevertheless, PMR could provide a useful methodology for tracking mortality trends in commercial fishing in different coastal states. Although
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program resource intensive, in-depth analysis and correlation of death certificate data with other safety information could lead to better insight on contributing causes to fatalities. Relationship of Fatalities to Survival Equipment CASMAIN contains “lack of available PFD” (personal flotation device) as a cause category for personnel casualties, interpreted by the Coast Guard to mean that a PFD was, for whatever reason, not available to the individual. CASMAIN data recorded only one fatality in which failure to use a PFD was recorded as the primary cause. However, anecdotal information frequently discloses that personnel lost overboard and not recovered were not wearing PFDs. The infrequent use of “lack of available PFD” for primary cause probably reflects the fact that this type of deficiency is more likely a contributing factor rather than a primary cause. Neither CASMAIN nor SAR data record what types of lifesaving devices were available, which if any were used, or how the devices performed during fatality or personnel injury incidents. This is a major data gap that forces all analysis of survival-equipment effectiveness to use less-inclusive information resources, such as accident investigations and anecdotal information. PERSONAL INJURIES As noted earlier, insufficient data are available on which to base even a rough estimate of how many injuries occur in the commercial fishing industry or to what degree injury rates may vary by vessel length, deck layout, or other factors. However, there are sufficient data to indicate the kinds of injuries and causes of greatest concern. For Alaskan commercial fisheries, Alaska Fishermen's Fund data can be used to identify possible variations by vessel and gear type, fishing district, nature of injury, body part injured, and Alaska residency status (Alaska Department of Labor, 1988). The most definitive research relevant to injuries was accomplished by Nixon and Fairfield (1986), who examined a random sample of commercial fishing insurance claims. Slips and falls constituted the largest number of injury cases, more than 25 percent of all permanent injuries. Falls overboard and crushing injuries were also common. These injuries were typically caused by handling fishing gear on deck, most frequently on vessels equipped with heavy gear manipulated with powerful winches. The most common types of crushing incidents occurred as a result of a hand, leg, or body caught or wound in a winch; trawl doors, traps, or other heavy gear dropped on feet; and being crushed against a bulwark or other fixed object by heavy swinging gear. A classic scenario, repeated again and again, was of a crew member attempting to
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program Commercial fishing routinely exposes fishermen to risk of injury, often requiring medical attention ashore. The scale of personal injury incidents in the fishing industry is not known but is thought to be large relative to injuries experienced in most other industries. (Art French, M.D., Alaska Sea Grant) adjust a moving cable with hands or feet, losing balance on a slippery, pitching deck, and being wound into the winch before the power could be cut off. An example of the possible extent of injuries is found in records of the Alaska Fishermen's Fund, under which Alaskan fishermen are eligible to receive up to $2,500 in compensation for fishing-related medical expenses. Although fund statistics are not routinely published, some statistical information is available. In fiscal year 1987 (FY 87), the fund recorded 2,363 personal injury claims (1,867 were approved). Roughly 1 in 20 fishermen eligible under the fund filed claims. Where gear type was listed in the claims, longline gear was the leader (34 percent), followed by seine (22 percent) and gill net (20 percent). The Fund uses a unique injury-classification system, which constrains comparison with injury data collected for other industries. For FY 87, 32 percent of claims filed were classified as sprains or strains and 27 percent as cuts, lacerations, abrasions, or punctures. Injuries involving fingers, hands, arms, or shoulders were most common (41 percent) and were most frequently associated with longline gear; cuts and infections were the leading “nature of injuries” in these cases. A comparison of Alaska Fishermen's Fund data
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program with Alaska commercial fishing license data is not available. Rates of injury incidents by gear type are not known. The Commercial Fishing Industry Vessel Safety Act of 1988 (CFIVSA) calls for insurance industry procedures to collect better information on injuries. However, even these data will be limited because of the nature and complexity of the international insurance market ( Chapter 7) and the fact that some owners, particularly those on smaller vessels, operate without insurance. HUMAN FACTORS DATA CASMAIN is the most complete source of human factors data for documented U.S. vessels, including documented fishing vessels. The data have significant shortfalls, which are already being addressed through research and development by the Coast Guard. Nevertheless, CASMAIN data suggest that certain human attributes are more prevalent than others as primary and secondary causes of casualties. Human factors as causes of accidents are addressed in Chapter 5. STRATEGIES FOR IMPROVING SAFETY DATA Fully effective administration of safety programs depends on adequate data resources. Without reliable and statistically valid data, safety shortcomings cannot be identified with clarity, and once safety programs are in place, they cannot be evaluated to determine if they are effective and whether resources committed to safety are being used wisely. Data of this type are limited relevant to the fishing industry. Data that are available are not being used for systematic performance evaluation of current safety initiatives. Major problems pertaining to safety data uncovered during this study include: inadequate casualty statistics and reporting; incompatibility among data bases; incomplete data on fishing vessel fleets and status; absence of demographic data on fishermen; absence of comprehensive and systematic monitoring and evaluation of safety performance of vessels, personnel, and equipment; and general nonavailability of occupational safety and personnel injury data. The initial safety-improvement alternatives identified by the committee address these data deficiencies.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program Improving Safety Data Alternative 1: Establish a Comprehensive Statistical Data Collection, Analysis, and Utilization Program This alternative envisions establishing a comprehensive safety administration program to research data needs, establish collection programs, and develop evaluation criteria. Ideally, it foresees modifying and upgrading data coding to permit correlation of data from all relevant data bases, starting with those maintained by the Coast Guard, federal agencies and operating units, the insurance industry, and other organizations maintaining useful information, and with vital records maintained by the states. Implementation issues include overhauling existing data collection and recording practices, developing taxonomies to guide data coding, arranging to exchange or share data among organizations, and determining resource requirements. Alternative 2: Require Vessel Registration Although all uninspected commercial fishing vessels are required to carry state numbers or be documented with the Coast Guard, there is no complete record of which vessels are actively engaged in commercial fishing. As a result, the size of the national fleet to which safety measures might apply can only be estimated. Furthermore, there is no capability to monitor safety performance, because vessels cannot be tracked across the various data bases. This alternative envisions that the Secretary of Transportation use discretionary authority provided by 46 U.S.C.A. §12501 to require information beneficial to law enforcement officials. This could include reporting of key physical characteristics, vessel usage, and current employment status as part of the mandatory vessel identification system. Such information could be extremely useful in assessing the infrastructure and support needed to improve safety. This alternative could use existing federal and state registration infrastructures for administration, expand the data, and make vessel registration a prerequisite for operations. The information is essential to determine the scope of safety problems and resource needs for implementing other vessel-related alternatives, provide a more complete basis for correlating data to identify problem vessels, and evaluate the effectiveness of safety-improvement alternatives. It could also provide important information for fisheries management. The Coast Guard's ongoing vessel identification system (VIDS), under which each vessel in the United States would be required to have a distinct identification number, could be modified to accomplish this alternative. Alternative 3: Require Professional Registration This alternative envisions requiring a new merchant mariners document
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program in 46 U.S.C.A. Chapter 73. In its simplest form, it could provide a way to determine the number of individuals engaged in commercial fishing. Individuals could be annually registered with a suitable industry or government organization without regard to professional qualifications. Certain demographic information could be obtained as part of registration to better understand the population engaged in the profession. This alternative could be applied to the entire fishing industry, such as in Alaska, where a crew license is required. Licensing as a safety-improvement alternative is discussed in Chapter 5. Professional registration could also be adapted to serve as a rudimentary certification or licensing scheme. Traditionally, implementation of licensing in the U.S. maritime industry has employed grandfathering provisions. Professional registration could be employed as a first step toward certification or licensing by requiring a professional registration document or card as a precondition for work in any capacity aboard fishing vessels. The card could be provided without a test, but made revokable so that persons violating regulations (such as failure to report a marine casualty) could have their commercial fishing or vessel-operating privileges suspended or denied. As a progressive measure, renewing registration after a certain period could be made contingent on certification that certain prerequisites —perhaps entry-level training—have been acquired. If registration were used in these ways, measures could be developed for interim registration to accommodate filling crew vacancies on short notice. This alternative is attractive in that invaluable census data could be acquired. Additionally, if adopted as a government program, the existing Coast Guard infrastructure extending to major fishing ports nationwide, with few exceptions (notably in Alaska), could be used to facilitate implementation on short notice with provision of suitable registration materials and equipment. Most Coast Guard shore stations are already equipped with standardized computer systems. Registration software could be developed for use on these systems. The Coast Guard has already researched card technology for potential use in its port safety and security program (USCG, undated). Technology developed or adapted for this use is potentially transferable to a registration system for fishermen. SUMMARY The fishing industry has a high incidence of sudden catastrophic loss of personnel and vessels. These events occur throughout the entire industry and are not isolated to any one segment. Certain areas are more prone to total vessel losses and vessel-related fatalities. However, exposure to vessel- and life-threatening situations occurs whether fishermen operate offshore, inshore, or on inland waters; in all environmental conditions; and on all sizes of vessels. The lack of data on the number of vessels, population at risk, and exposure factors makes development of precise casualty rates futile.
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FISHING VESSEL SAFETY: Blueprint for a National Program Because of the data limitations, it is difficult to determine the exact importance of any particular cause or type of incident or exactly how effective any particular improvement strategy might be. Because commercial fishing takes place in so many different environments, utilizing so many different kinds of vessels and gear, safety problems cannot be attributed to a few universal causes, nor can most incidents be easily attributed to a particular cause. Human, vessel, and environmental causes are all major contributing factors in casualties, but the data are extremely limited. Safety-strategy design, therefore, must incorporate other information beyond hard data—such as reasoning about likely causes and effects—and the vast anecdotal evidence available. Safety-improvement options include the following alternatives (sequentially numbered): establish a comprehensive statistical data collection, analysis, and utilization program, require vessel registration, and require professional registration.
Representative terms from entire chapter: