Connection between shrimp vessel deaths, entanglement analyzed
The study points up the dangers and some common-sense solutions that might keep the workers safe.
The commercial fishing industry has the highest occupational fatality rate in the U.S., say scientists. While many are caused by falls overboard, approximately 10 percent are due to injuries sustained onboard, including becoming entangled in winches.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed data on the 35 work-related injuries and deaths involving deck winches that occurred in the southern shrimp fleet between 2000 and 2011. The region covers eight warm water shrimp-producing states in the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic, an area with particularly high rates of fatalities involving winches and other machinery.
The researchers looked at injury patterns and calculated risk ratios to compare the probability of fatal outcomes from incidents involving different winch mechanisms and operating situations. They determined that injuries involving the winch drum had a higher risk for fatalities than those involving the winch cathead.
Other risk factors included being alone on the vessel, being alone on deck, and wearing baggy clothing. "Loose fitting clothing, such as shorts, long sleeves or gloves was cited as the first thing entangled in the winch," according to an article in a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Most of the injuries analyzed occurred on side trawlers -- vessels towing a trawl net from each side -- and often involved experienced workers. Both captains and deckhands were at risk.
Potential solutions include installing hydraulic devices. Lower cost solutions include making minor modifications to existing deck machinery. "Strong passive guarding could be attached around the main winch drums to prevent or reduce the severity of an entanglement injury," the article says. "Other interventions might involve mechanisms to stop the winch, either by disconnecting the power-take-off linkage, stopping the main engine, or disengaging the winch clutch arm."
Crew members should avoid working alone and training should include procedures to stop the winch in an emergency and administer first aid.
"An emergency stop button located strategically on the hydraulically powered winch was determined to be the most effective means for preventing winch injuries," the article states. "The device was developed, tested, and licensed to a manufacturer for installation on new winches and for retrofitting on existing winches. A similar approach appears to be needed to develop viable prevention solutions to the unique hazards winches present on shrimp vessels."
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April 18, 2013
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