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Commercial fishermen: Chronic health risks

On Behalf of | Aug 1, 2022 | Fishing Boat Accidents

People who work in commercial fishing, whether in New York or at other seaports across the U.S., face certain health risks. With the industry’s injury rate well above the national average, successful interventions are helping to reduce those risks. However, fishermen face irregular hours, physical strain, noise and, in some cases, UV radiation. Studies show the prevalence of certain conditions and diseases among those in the fishing industry.

Federal agencies are striving to reduce the risk of chronic health conditions by studying the fishing industries and its workers. Through these studies, agencies hope to identify risks and develop ways to mitigate them.

Risk of certain diseases

Noted in studies was a higher prevalence of hearing loss, certain types of cancer such as actinic keratosis and leukemia, fatigue and musculoskeletal injuries. This was higher than in other occupational groups as well as the general population.

Being at sea may necessitate the need for medical care. Those on a ship may also struggle with poor dental care, lack of immunizations and mental health problems. This is in addition to those injured at sea, from safety issues, accidents or work-related musculoskeletal disorders, who need medical care.

Fishing industry ages

As fishermen get older, there is more risk for other diseases. They include obesity, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Ships offer little in the way of exercise, other than what one gets while doing the job. There are other risks, with boats being diesel or gasoline powered, many with dual engines, which can be a source of noise and exhaust exposure.

Programs offered

NIOSH developed the Total Worker Health™ (TWH) program in 2011. It focuses on integrating health and injury prevention into the workplace. Health risk appraisals are also given to fishermen, while healthy activity off the ship receives encouragement. They want to attack these health risks before they begin.

Commercial fishermen face abundant chronic health risks as well as the possibility of injury. Prevention programs are in place to address some of these risks.